HC Deb 24 February 1876 vol 227 cc820-902

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [22nd February], That, in the opinion of this House, a Slave once admitted to the protection of the British Flag should he treated while on hoard one of Her Majesty's ships as if he were free, and should not be removed from or ordered to leave the ship on the ground of slavery,"—(Mr. Whitbread.)

And which Amendment was, To leave out from the word "House" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in order to maintain most effectually the right of personal liberty, it is desirable to await further information from the Report of a Royal Commission, both as to the instructions from time to time issued to British naval officers, the international obligations of this Country, and the attitude of other States in regard to the treatment of domestic Slaves on board of national ships,"—(Mr. Hanbury,)

—instead thereof.

Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

Debate resumed.


regretted that the heat of Party feeling had been introduced into the discussion on the first night by some of the Conservative Members. If the attacks made on the late Government were calculated merely to inflict a Party wound he should be content to pass them by and to confine his observations exclusively to the question before the House; but inasmuch as those attacks had a tendency to obscure the question under discussion, and to unduly affect the judgment of Members upon it, he thought it necessary briefly to deal with that subject. The first matter dealt with by the right hon. Gentleman opposite and other speakers on the same side, and which, indeed, formed the staple of their speeches, was an attack on the late Liberal Ministry for the Slave Act passed by them in 1873. He knew not when it was Her Majesty's Government discovered that that Act was of the character now attributed to it. They had the question of slavery under their consideration in September last, and if the Act had any bearing on the matter it was to be presumed they had looked into it; yet it was not until Tuesday evening that any allusion had been made to it by the Government or their supporters. However, he maintained that the Act of 1873, were it politic or impolitic, had no bearing whatever on the question which arose on the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Bedford. That question had reference to the persons of fugitive slaves who had been received on board British ships and were under the protection of the British flag; but the Act of 1873 dealt not with fugitive slaves, but with the slave trade. It was a law enacted by Parliament for the purpose of carrying out arrangements made by Treaties with various States for the suppression of the slave trade; and the obligation of returning slaves applied only to a case where the captain of a British man-of-war had seized a ship containing slaves, either on the high seas or in territorial waters. In such a case, according to the Treaties, the captain was not allowed to judge whether the ship seized was a lawful prize or not, but must submit that question to a Maritime Court, which would decide whether or not he had a right to make the seizure. If the Court decided that the capture was lawful the vessel was forfeited; if the decision, however, were that the seizure had been made in defiance of law, the ship and the slaves it might contain would be restored to the owners under the order of the Court, because the Treaties under which Great Britain was enabled to take measures for the suppression of the slave trade compelled her to make that restoration. Whether it was right or wrong to deal with the slave trade in that way, it was manifest that the seizure of a ship and the restoration of slaves under such circumstances had nothing whatever to do with the question now under consideration—namely, the presence of a fugitive slave on board a British ship and the obligation of the captain to deliver him up. The Secretary of State for War said the Government were prepared to maintain the law which their Liberal predecessors had passed. He (Mr. Herschell) was sorry to hear that if the law were a bad one; and, as an independent Member, looked to the present Government, if they found that mischievous laws had been passed, to endeavour to remedy them; but he denied that the maintenance of the law of 1873 was in any sense a maintenance of the principle of the second Circular or in opposition to the Resolution proposed by the hon. Member for Bedford. The next ground of attack was that the Government were compelled to issue Circulars because they were hampered by the acts of their predecessors; but they said that they had leaned more to freedom than their predecessors had done, and had endeavoured to mitigate the evils of slavery. To what did language of that sort refer? Did it refer to the first Slave Circular? He, for one, should have been quite willing not to say a single word about that Circular. His hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Mr. Hanbury) said he should be surprised if any Member of the House, assuming the part of the vulture, should dig the first Circular from its grave. He had, however, to submit to that surprise, which must have been greatly increased when he found the vulture taking the shape of the Attorney General. That Circular, he (Mr. Herschell) contended, contained harder and more rigorous provisions against the slave than any previous instructions issued to naval officers, and it also contained provisions that were erroneous and not justified by International Law. The second Circular was issued to mitigate the rigour of the first, but, as far as there was any credit to be attached to it, he denied that it was issued by Her Majesty's Ministers at all; it was issued by the nation. It was issued because of the indignation felt by the people of England at the first Circular, which they regarded as an abandonment of British rights and an outrage on some of their most cherished principles. He did not, however, make these remarks by way of attack on the Government for having issued the first Circular, because no one knew better than he did how sound the Attorney General was generally on points of law, and he would not lift his voice and say one word against the Government for having acted on the learned Attorney General's opinion, but he was meeting the attacks that had been made upon Liberal Members. They did not commence the warfare. Both sides had been living in glass-houses, but who had been throwing the stones? He ventured to say that no stone had been thrown from his side of the House, except by way of reply to some charge which had been made on the Ministerial side of the House. ["Oh, oh!"] He did not expect hon. Members opposite to agree with him, or anything that he said; but, on the other hand, he could confidently appeal to the House to call to their recollection the speeches made during the former discussion, whether anything in the nature of an attack on the acts of the Government was made, or whether there was not rather an endeavour to discuss the question of principle involved in the Resolution. They should recollect that on that occasion the remark of the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. A. Mills) was not calculated to lead to a calm discussion of the question—when he compared those who sat on the Opposition benches to Satan by saying it was a case of Satan rebuking Sin, at the same time adding there was nothing he deprecated more than political tu quoques. With reference to the second Circular, he did not intend to deal at length with the law of the question, although he had something to say with reference to it. With regard to this matter there were three principles which must be taken into consideration for the guidance of the House—two had been generally admitted, but the third had been subjected to some contest. The first was, that British ships of war were intended in general for the reception on board of those persons only who were in the service of Her Majesty or whose presence was required for the purposes of the enterprises on which the vessels were engaged. The second was, that a British ship of war, even in foreign waters, was subject to British law alone, and that the foreign local jurisdiction no more prevailed on board such a vessel than it did in the British Isles. The third principle was, that a British ship was not justified, when admitted into the foreign waters of a friendly State, in using her immunity from local jurisdiction for the purpose of inciting, or procuring, or inducing a breach of the local laws of that country, and that the country so offending would, according to the comity of nations, justly be called to account by the injured foreign State. The first and third of these principles were generally admitted; the second had been to some extent impugned. He could not quite gather whether the Secretary for War disagreed with the second proposition or not; but the right hon. Gentleman seemed to suggest that it was not in accordance with law. In enforcing his views, the right hon. Gentleman insisted that it was shown not to be so, inasmuch as a British man-of-war was subject to Customs and quarantine regulations. These, however, were things outside the ship, and had nothing to do with the law prevailing on board. The Attorney General had said that if a British ship of war were British soil we must carry out the doctrine to its legal consequences. Admitting this, he could not agree with the hon. and learned Member that we were bound to admit all slaves, deserters, and murderers who chose to come on board. Her Majesty's arsenal at Woolwich was British soil; but, nevertheless, the policemen would exclude many people if they endeavoured to enter. It was not because the right claimed might be unreasonably exercised that the right did not exist. He denied that the comity of nations required, under all circumstances and in every case, that a person breaking the local law should be put off the ship; and Her Majesty's Government, who said the second Circular was good law, admitted it, inasmuch as where life was in peril they justified a defiance of the local law; but by what authority was it to be limited to the single case of danger to human life? He asserted that the danger to human life which justified them in refusing to obey a local law was not the only case in which they were justified in doing so. The second Circular, therefore, leaned more to slavery than it need; it did more than International Law compelled us to do, and so did more than it ought to do. Why were the commanders of Queen's ships to defy the local law in the case of danger to human life? Because the comity of nations never compelled them to enforce a law which would shock the national conscience, and to restore and surrender when the effect of restoration and surrender would be to outrage the feelings of humanity. This was an intelligible principle; and if the Circular, as it did, accepted the principle, ought it to remain in its present form, prohibiting the reception and protection of slaves in cases where under the comity of nations there was no obligation upon us to do so? It was not possible to specify all the cases in which the same principle would require us to interfere; but the matter might safely be left to the discretion of our naval officers in each particular case. Experience did not bear out the statement that they were not to be trusted in such a matter. He did not mean to say that cases of doubt and difficulty had not arisen; but when they considered on the one hand that an officer would have a natural disinclination to encumber his ship with those who were unnecessary to its service, and on the other that he would be keenly sensitive to outrage and wrong, they might safely leave the matter in the hands of their naval officers. But if it was considered necessary to issue instructions, he ventured to say that the proper course would have been to have considered the whole question and reviewed the whole law on the subject. This Circular established a direct difference between the treatment of fugitive slaves and political refugees. If a political refugee came on board one of Her Majesty's ships, the orders were to remove him to a convenient place of safety; but in the case of a fugitive slave they were to send him back, not to a place of safety, but to a place of danger. Where was the principle of International Law which said that the comity of nations compelled them to do the one and to refuse the other? This Circular did not deal with the case in a complete manner, and that was one of the reasons why it should be withdrawn. With regard to the question of International Law, he asserted that its principles had been largely created by the action of England herself, and that she had not been slow, even although there might be danger, in asserting propositions which she believed to be right and just. Was England now to be no longer in the van in procuring the acquiescence of other nations to beneficent principles of International Law? International Law was, to a great extent, transitory in its nature, and principles which might hold-when most nations were slaveholders became inapplicable when slavery was skulking in the remoter corners of the earth, and the feelings of mankind were outraged by such a traffic, England had sometimes been accused of a selfish policy in dealing with foreign States; but now when she had no selfish ends to serve, but was acting in the interests of humanity, was she to be more slow to act than she had been heretofore? He agreed that we ought not to bully the weak and truckle to the strong; but, on the other hand, we must not for fear of such a charge, be afraid of doing what was right, and there was not a civilized Power which would not accept the position we might lay down on this question. The Motion of the hon. Member for Bedford put forward the logical proposition that these matters should be left to the discretion of our naval officers; whereas the Government, in place of acceding to that proposal, offered to refer the whole subject to a Royal Commission. If the proper way to deal with this subject were to refer it to a Royal Commission, why, when it was before Her Majesty's Government in November last, did not that course suggest itself to them, and why was that suggestion heard for the first time in the Speech from the Throne? Had the subject been referred to a Royal Commission then, the Commission might have reported by this time, and Her Majesty's Government, instead of having to propose that that course should be taken at this late hour, would have been in a position to announce a policy. What was the Commission to do? It was to inquire into the instructions that had been issued to our naval officers and into our international obligations; but surely these were matters with which they might have made themselves fully acquainted during the three months preceding the meeting of Parliament. The third subject into which the Commission was to inquire was how other nations had acted in reference to their national ships in dealing with this question. He did not want to know how other nations had acted. Supposing other nations had acted as it was desired Her Majesty's Government should act, we should then have the humiliation of finding that we had been waiting for the opinion of others, instead of forming our own on the subject; and if, on the contrary, other nations had acted in a manner in which it was not desirable that Her Majesty's Government should act, were the latter going to follow their bad example? But a far graver objection to the appointment of this Commission was the danger that might result from it. In the event of the Commission taking a narrower view of this question than Her Majesty's Government did, foreign nations to whom we made representations on this subject would point to the Report of the Commission, and say-that their views were in accordance with it; and when our Government said—"Oh, but our Lord Chancellor says so and so," they would say—" You were not content to rely upon your Lord Chancellor's judgment. You referred the question to your Royal Commission, and they have reported against his opinion." A reply such as that would place the country in a position of considerable embarrassment; and, therefore, he submitted that the appointment of this Commission would be fraught with danger and difficulty, and might land us in an infinitely worse position than we now occupied. This question was of an importance that raised it far above all Party considerations, and every Member in that House should do his utmost to bring about the best possible solution of this problem. There were two alternatives before the House. The Resolution of the hon. Member for Tamworth (Mr. Hanbury) confessed to a state of mind doubtful and hesitating; it necessitated delay and involved risk; and if they adopted it, whatever they might say to the contrary, foreign nations would think, what he believed to be utterly false, that the mind of England was not made up upon the slave question. On the other hand, they were asked to vote for a Motion which contravened no statute, violated no Treaty obligations, infringed no rule of International Law, but which embodied principles for the sake of which England had made costly sacrifices, and would be willing, with ungrudging hand, to make them again—principles which were as dear to her today, aye dearer, than ever they were in times gone by.


said, the hon. Member for Bedford, and some of his supporters, had appealed to the independents on the Ministerial side of the House, and had asked them to accept blindly an abstract Resolution without considering by whom it was proposed. He himself thought that the passing of such a Resolution would be a censure on the Government; but since the adjournment of the debate there had been a change of front which left no doubt of the intention of the Opposition. Assuming, as they properly did, that the Motion of the hon. Member would be rejected, they now asked the House to assent to the new Motion of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett), that the Circular should be rescinded. There was no doubt that a Motion of that kind involved censure upon the Government. It would be rational before they censured the Government to consider what wrong they had done, and to inquire whether it was not the Party opposite that had reversed the ancient anti-slavery policy of this country, and whether the present Government had gone far enough in reversing the policy of their predecessors. He had no wish to introduce Party acrimony into the debate, but it was right that they should know what was the exact position of affairs when the present Government came into office. In March, 1869, Captain Meara received on board one of Her Majesty's ships two slaves who complained that they had been beaten and ill-fed by their owners. The Government of that day, being an economical Government, found that the anti-slavery policy was too expensive for them to adopt, and so they censured the captain of the vessel. Lord Clarendon said he conceived that the commander of Her Majesty's ship was not justified in taking away the slaves in question, because they were the property of individuals, and the owner in such a case was entitled to compensation. In another case, that of the Daphne, Captain Sulivan, on arriving at Mozambique in July, 1869, found the place in a panic. Some slaves had been flogged to death, and others subjected to frightful tortures. Negroes came on board and sought the protection of the British flag. Captain Sulivan sailed away with two of these men. In March, 1870, complaint was made of this by the Portuguese Government to Lord Clarendon. Captain Sulivan was subjected to a Court of Inquiry, and censured for not having communicated with the nearest British Consul with regard to the negroes who came on board the Daphne. On the 30th of May, 1870, a most humiliating despatch was written to the Portuguese Government, expressing a hope that they would be satisfied with the censure that had been passed on Captain Sulivan, and stating that instructions had recently been issued to the officers of British ships of war on the Coast of Africa which it was hoped would prevent a recurrence of the conduct of which the Portuguese Government had complained. Not a word was said in that despatch about the torture of slaves, or of the flogging of a slave to death. That was the kind of policy which the Government adopted at that time. The next was a remarkable case. In October, 1869, four men, who alleged themselves to be slaves and kept in servitude in Madagascar, in violation of a Treaty with the British Government, asked for protection on board the Dryad. The captain immediately communicated with the nearest Consul. The Vice Admiralty Court having inquired into the case decided that, under the circumstances, the captain was fully justified in receiving the slaves on board and refusing to surrender them; but unfortunately for the captain, before the Vice Admiralty Court decided that he had acted rightly, he had been already condemned by the Foreign Office for doing that which the Vice Admiralty Court said was right. Lord Clarendon, in 1870, decided that, when slaves came on board a British ship, claiming the protection of the British flag, because they were in slavery, in violation of a Treaty, it was the duty of the officer to refuse to receive them, to leave them on shore, and communicate with the nearest Vice Consul. A celebrated East Indian Station Order was also issued in 1871, laying down, as the law, that slaves seeking refuge in our ships, in territorial waters, should be returned to their owners. He would like to know whether, in the course of those proceedings, the Law Officers of the Crown were consulted or not upon the legal question involved. If they were not consulted, the late Government had been guilty of a serious neglect of duty; but if they were consulted, was there no legal Gentleman on the opposite side of the House prepared to defend the law laid down by his predecessor. In the case of the Magpie, two slaves came on board that vessel while she was in the Persian Gulf, in July, 1871. One was surrendered to the Persian Slave Commissioner, and the other not, because of some informality. But after the surrender of the first slave the Political Resident, being in doubt as to whether he had done right, communicated with the Secretary of the Government in Bombay, and the answer he received was— The Commanders of British men-of-war would not only be authorized in refusing to surrender a slave who had found refuge on board his vessel, but would incur very serious legal responsibilities if he in any way attempted to coerce that slave to return to his master. It seemed that the Law Officers of the Crown had been consulted in that case. On the 7th of January, 1874, the Government of India gave certain provisional orders for the guidance of our officers in the Persian Gulf; and those provisional orders were found to be in force when the present Ministry came into office. He did not suppose any Member of the late Government would disclaim their responsibility for the action of the Governor General of India, Lord Northbrook, on the 7th of January, 1874. Well, the provisional orders thus issued were these— (a.) Commanders of ships riding in foreign territory should not receive domestic slaves on board except under urgent circumstances, as, e.g. when a man would be drowned if he was rejected; (b.) they should return slaves to their lawful owners or to the public authorities of the place on proper demand being made; (c.) commanders of ships which may be technically on the high seas, but practically are brought into close contract with the owners of domestic slaves, should do what they can to avoid receiving the slaves on board their vessels. The right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) the other night said that such an instruction in regard to our public ships on the high seas was entirely new. The provisional order went on to say— (d.) If nevertheless such slaves do come on board, the commander may exercise a discretion whether to return the slave to his master, supposing proper demand to be made, or to retain him and set him at liberty. Thus, then, the House would see that the anti-slavery policy of this country had already been reversed when the present Ministry took office, although the right hon. Member for Bradford, in addressing his constituents last October, said the people of England could not believe that it was possible for the present Government or for any British Government to issue instructions which gave up rights that belonged to the British flag and reversed the anti-slavery policy, which was our great glory, and which had been maintained at great cost. But the people of England had since then discovered that it was not the present Government, but their predecessors, who had reversed our anti-slavery policy and surrendered the rights of our flag; and hence the exhortation to moderation now addressed to the House by the hon. Gentlemen opposite. The right hon. Member for Bradford said last night he would be prepared to wait for the Report of the Commission if he thought no harm would come by waiting. He now said for himself, in turn, that he would be prepared to vote for the abstract Resolution of the hon. Member for Bedford if he thought no harm would come from that abstract Resolution. That Resolution still further abridged the discretion of our naval officers by for bidding them, under any circumstances whatever, to give a temporary asylum to a slave seeking refuge under the British flag. ["No!"] It said that when a slave was admitted to a British ship-of-war he should be treated on board as if he were free, and not be ordered to leave or be removed on the ground of slavery. Therefore, unless they made up their minds to take the fugitive on board for good, they must under no circumstances receive him. Thus if a slave got on board who claimed his freedom on the ground of Treaty, he must be kept there, though his claim under the Treaty might be false. They would have the rule laid down by Lord Clarendon in 1870 revived, and fugitives seeking to come on board our ships on the ground of Treaty would not be received, while our officers would have to communicate with the nearest Consular station on the matter. The same objection applied to the Motion of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett), for it would take away the discretion which the present Circular had given to naval officers, who were instructed, by its terms, to keep a fugitive slave on board as long as it was necessary, in order to ascertain the truth or falsehood of his claim for protection. In these remarks offered to the House he trusted he had not been guilty of Party asperity. He had tried to answer the appeal made to independent Members, and to estimate justly the position of Her Majesty's Government upon this question. The only fault anybody could find with the present Government was that they had shown too much caution in reversing the policy of their predecessors. They had already undone a great part of the mischief done by their predecessors; they were prepared to take steps to undo the rest; and the House of Commons at that moment was asked to pass what was equivalent to a Vote of Censure upon them, and that by the Party which had actually reversed the anti-slavery policy of this country, a Party which had surrendered the privileges of the British flag, and all for the sake of affirming an abstract Resolution, which would further abridge the discretion of the naval officers, and also inflict further injury upon the fugitive slave.


said, that he was unwilling to give a silent vote upon the question, and he wished to explain the reasons which influenced and would determine that vote. The hon. Member for Bedford, in his calm, temperate, and able speech, had rightly admitted that there was no difference between the two sides of the House in their detestation of slavery. All alike, Conservatives and Liberals, were agreed in abhorring an institution which was an offence against humanity. The strongest opponent of the present Government did not believe that it wished to encourage slavery, or that the issuing of the Circular was anything more than an unintentional error of judgment. And this ought not to be, and was not a Party question. The honoured name borne by the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread) was a guarantee that he did not bring it forward in a Party spirit; nor could the Leaders of the Opposition on the front benches convert into an engine of Party attack a Circular which in terms was almost identical with the opinions and instructions of Lord Palmerston and Lord Clarendon. But the Liberal Party were not compromised by those opinions, for they had never heard of them until they were brought to light by the discussion caused by the appearance of the Circulars. As to the independent Members on his (Mr. Forsyth's) side of the House, he felt sure that they would act independently, and not be forced by the allegiance of Party into a vote contrary to their convictions on a matter so deeply affecting the happiness of their fellow men, and also the character of this great nation, as did the question now before the House, He could have ardently wished that the Government, taking advantage of the appointment of a Royal Commission, had agreed to suspend and withdraw their Circular until the Commission had reported. In that case he should have voted against the Motion of the hon. Member (Mr. Whitbread), because he should have thought it premature and unnecessary. He could not understand why the Government had not adopted that course. If they were so sure that they were right in issuing this Circular, why did they appoint the Commission at all? It seemed to him that the issuing of the Commission betrayed an uneasy suspicion in their minds that the Circular was wrong; and, if so, would it not be better to wait for the Report of the Commission? Was there any reason for haste in this matter? The matter was first brought under the consideration of the Government in a letter dated March 9, 1874, from Sir Louis Mallet, the Under Secretary for the India Office, but no answer was sent to that letter from the Foreign Office until April 13, 1875; and could not that question be delayed for a few weeks which had been allowed to sleep for 14 months? He would now address himself to the second Circular, under the two aspects of law and policy. He was not going to say that this Circular was contrary to law; but that the first Circular was contrary to law he unhesitatingly affirmed, and although the Attorney General said it was good law, it had been condemned by the Members of the Government, the Lord Chancellor, and everyone else, and he had never heard a lawyer say it was right. Chief Justice Best, in the case of "Forbes v. Cochrane," said that if a man were once received on board a British ship of war and then remitted to slavery, he might just as well be consigned to the deep. Lord Brougham had expressed a similar opinion in the House of Lords in 1842, and the House had heard from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Sir John Hay) that this was the traditional view of the British Navy. In the year 1815, after the Treaty of Ghent, a correspondence passed on this subject between the American Minister and Lord Bathurst. During the war with America, a British ship had sent a flag of truce on shore, and it was alleged that the captain of the vessel had allowed 11 negroes to get on board and had carried them away. The captain denied the fact; but a correspondence ensued between Mr. Quincy Adams and Lord Bathurst, in which the captain denied the fact—but said that if he had received escaped slaves on board his ship he would not have delivered them up, but have referred the matter to his Commander-in-Chief. The Instructions in the present case were not contrary to law, because no captain could be bound to receive anybody on board his ship except the crew, the passengers, and the officers of the ship; but when any person, alleged to be a slave, was once received on board, according to the Circular the captain was to give him up, and he would become a slave again. It might be said that to avoid that consequence the captain was ordered in the Circular not to inquire into his status, and not to surrender him to a demand. But was not this something like a subterfuge? The captain would know that the man was a slave, and that if he went back he would be consigned to slavery again. If goods were feloniously stolen, and an advertisement were issued saying that if they were restored no questions would be asked, this might seem to be a very innocent thing; but the law pierced through the thin disguise, and sternly called it by the ugly name of compounding a felony. The Circular was totally silent as to the case which frequently occurred of a slave coming clandestinely on board, and the officer must still exercise his discretion in such cases. Take the case of two ships of war going into the foreign waters of a slave-holding State, one anchoring just within the territorial waters and the other on the high seas within a few yards of the other. If two slaves escaped from the shore to the ships and one swam to the vessel on the high seas he would be free, while the other who went on board the ship within the territorial waters, although it might be only 20 yards distant, would be sent back into slavery before the day was over. Public opinion would see no distinction between these two cases, and would not consent to a Circular which established such a distinction. Admitting that the Circular was not wrong in point of law, did the comity of nations and International Law require that we should surrender a fugitive slave who fled to a British ship and claimed the protection of the British flag. If such surrender were not required by the comity of nations the Circular was wrong and ought to he withdrawn. If it were required, we had no option, and must surrender a runaway slave who came on hoard a British ship in territorial waters. There were two conflicting principles—the first, that every independent State had jurisdiction within its own territory, including its territorial waters; and the other that no Foreign Power had any jurisdiction whatever over any British man-of-war, whether in territorial waters or on the high seas. This had been asserted by every writer on International Law, but he would content himself with quoting a passage from the work of M. Calvo, a French author of great authority on the subject. M. Calvo said— The reasons which subject a merchant vessel to the territorial jurisdiction, have no possible application to a ship of war, of which the character, organization, and employment, are essentially different. Therefore, in whatever place it finds itself, it remains exclusively governed by the sovereignty and the laws to which it belongs. The captain of a man-of-war, however, had no right to use violence to break the chains of the slave unless he was enabled by treaty to do so. He must remain perfectly quiescent, perfectly passive with regard to domestic slavery; if not, he violated national law and acted contrary to the comity of nations. There was, as Mr. Justice Bayley had said, a great difference between making the law active and allowing it to be passive. And in the case of "Forbes v. Cochrane" Mr. Justice Best said that the comity of nations was a maxim that could not prevail in any case where it violated the law of our own country, the law of nature, and the law of God. Convicts and murderers might and ought to be expelled from a ship of war by the comity of nations, for they had committed crimes admitted to be such by all nations. But there was no comity of nations which required that the captain of a man-of-war should assist actively in restoring a slave to his owner. An escaped slave was not in the same category as a murderer or a thief—for the only thing he had stolen was his liberty. We had no right to use force for the purpose of putting an end to slavery; but, on the other hand, no State had a right to ask us to use force to restore a slave to his master. The captain of a British man-of-war ought not to be called upon to act as a policeman in favour of the slave owner. Then, with respect to the obligation of Treaties—so much insisted upon by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, and which seemed to have a great effect on the House—all the Treaties on this subject for the last 30 or 40 years—and there were 32 in number—were made with States for the purpose of preventing the slave trade, and had no reference to fugitive slaves. It was said that the Members of the former Liberal Government were extremely inconsistent in condemning this Circular, having themselves been parties to the Act of 1873, which for the first time contained a provision that slaves should be restored to their owners. There never was a more unfounded assertion. The law of 1873 only consolidated the Acts relating to Treaties for putting an end to the slave trade, and precisely the same provision for the restoration of slaves to their owners, if the seizure were condemned by a competent Court, was contained in 5 Geo. IV. cap. 113, enacted by a Tory Government. It might be said that slave-holding States would exclude our ships from their ports if they became a refuge for fugitive slaves. But he (Mr. Forsyth) would like to know what slave-holding State would dare to do this? Would Spain, or Brazil, or Madagascar, or Zanzibar venture to shut their harbours against the British Navy and British commerce? He believed that they would not—that the danger was absolutely chimerical. He believed the true solution of this question was to leave it to the discretion of commanding officers. The captains of our men-of-war were gentlemen, men of humanity and judgment; and no real difficulty would occur if the matter were left to their discretion. And in one important particular the matter was left to their discretion, for the Circular provided that where life was in manifest danger the captain was to receive the slave. He therefore must determine whether there was or was not danger to life, and this was a question in which one man would form one opinion and another another, and so it was a matter of entire discretion. Suppose the slave truthfully said—"No! I shall not be killed—I am too valuable for that—but I shall be severely flogged," what was the captain to do in such a case? It was because this Circular seemed to be in the interest of the slave owner rather than of the slave, because it enabled the slave owner to assert his property in human flesh, that a feeling of dissatisfaction pervaded the public mind in regard to it. He believed that the instinct of a whole nation was seldom wrong. For these reasons, although he should reluctantly be placing himself in opposition to the Government with whose principles he generally agreed, and whose conduct he generally approved, he should vote for the Motion of the hon. Member for Bedford.


said, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War had alluded, with great feeling, to scenes of his early life, and to his acquaintance with those great promoters of the abolition of slavery, from whose footstool he drew the inspiration which he had brought to the House on the question of slavery. He (Mr. Pease) had also passed his early years in close acquaintance with the followers of the noble band, and had been in close fellowship with that Christian Church which had, more than 100 years ago, expressed, in instructions to its members and missionaries and teachers abroad, in earnest terms, the deep abhorrence that was felt in regard to the slave traffic. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Pease) read the extract he referred to, and reminded the House that at the time it was issued, 1758, and for 30 years afterwards, this country was a slave-holding and a slave-trading country, but the light of liberty had spread, for during the last 50 years, this country had not only abolished slavery and the slave trade in her own colonies at a great sacrifice, but had entered into Treaties with other nations, and had kept a fleet upon the seas to hound down the traffic in slaves, and root out the system of domestic slavery. The history did not end here. A few years ago, when a fierce war was raging on the other side of the Atlantic, the sympathy of this country only went with the North when it was found the result would be freedom to the slaves. Their attention had been called to the state of the slave trade on the East Coast of Africa, and they had sent out a special mission to Zanzibar, and had almost enforced Treaties there with the object of destroying the slave trade, and rooting out a thing which he wished to keep steadily before the House—namely, the horrid institution of domestic slavery; and more than that, they had brought home the other day the travel-worn attenuated remains of a great African traveller, who had caused their attention to be directed to the slave trade of the whole continent of Africa, and they had buried him in that large mausoleum where the great of our country were interred, and under the statue of Clarkson and Buxton and other famous philanthropists. Why had he made this sketch of things which were well known to every man in the House? Not to celebrate the triumph of Party, because he thought Party had very little to do with this matter; but to celebrate the great triumphs of the great Anglo-Saxon race, both on this side and on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. It was the proudest page of the history of that race which chronicled the efforts it had made, not only to alleviate the sufferings of the slaves, but to secure their liberation. The real matter under discussion, he contended, was not the Commission, but the proposition that henceforth a slave once admitted to the protection of the British flag should be treated whilst on board one of Her Majesty's ships as if he were free, and should not be removed on the ground of slavery. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread) had insisted that under the British flag they did not know a slave; and he went further, and suggested that they should go further, and ask Her Majesty that they might repeal those letters, instructions, and Circulars which had been sent out from time to time, and which were at variance with the proposition which the hon. Member laid down in his Resolution. Well, whether the Commission they were to have was wise or foolish, he believed that it could be attended but by one result. The fiat had gone forth from the people of the country, and no Government would for one day or for one moment have the confidence of the people who did not adhere to the very simple terms of the Motion, and that which was involved in the Motion of the hon. Member for Bedford. Why, he asked, should they delay to conform to that which his hon. Friend proposed to the House? Why should they delay that which, whatever the Commission reported, the country and the House, he believed, emphatically-affirmed as necessary? Why delay until some other country had taken a leaf out of our book, but, at any rate, had followed our policy, and did that which we ought to do, and declared what, he hoped, the House would declare to-night, that they knew nothing of slavery wherever the national flag was unfurled. They spoke of independent Members in the House, and his appeal would be to those Members. What were independent Members? It seemed to him they were those who either having been in office had left the honours of office with the great trials of office behind them, and they were those who came into the House not looking at Membership as a stepping stone to higher honour for themselves, but as the Representatives of constituencies who looked upon their independence with approval, and knew their independence of thought and character. He appealed to these independent Members on the present occasion. The hon. Member for Bedford was one of the foremost of independent Members; but it had been said that he had been "put up." He did not ask Mr. Speaker to call the hon. Member for Tamworth (Mr. Hanbury), who had made this statement, to Order, because he knew the judgment of the House would condemn the phrase as applied to the hon. Member for Bedford; but he believed the hon. Member had been put up to speak—put up by his own feelings—because he felt that the character of this country before the nations of the world was in danger if they delayed or played with, or tampered with the question. At any rate, the name of his hon. Friend would not go down with those of hon. Gentlemen who had attempted to delay a process which the country was anxious for. He wanted to know how any hon. Member could look on the matter as a Party question. Those who had read the letters of Lord Palmerston or of Lord Clarendon, or the two Circulars on the question could come but to one conclusion—that we had done those things which we ought not to have done, and we had left undone those things which we ought to have done. The hon. Member for Tamworth had spoken of domestic slavery as a thing very difficult to handle, and had spoken of violation of Treaties with other nations. God forbid that he (Mr. Pease) should say anything in violation of Treaties, but none of these Treaties made us parties to domestic slavery, and there was no fear of the violation of Treaties. Domestic slavery was contrary to the laws of God and man. The only countries where a system of domestic slavery prevailed were parts of South America, Turkey, Egypt, Arabia, the West, and part of the East Coast of Africa, Mahometan, and half civilised countries that were fast sinking into the lowest moral depths as nations. This accursed system of slavery was, he believed, one of the chief causes that were sapping their foundations. What would be the feeling of Wilberforce, of Clarkson, or any of the early abolitionists if they could walk into the House and find a discussion of this kind going on? Surely it would be thought this was not the nation that was the foremost in the righteous cause of giving freedom to the slave at a time when she had arrayed against her the slaveholding powers of Spain, Portugal, and America. All that had passed away. He was thankful for the Circular, inasmuch as it had drawn the attention of the people of England to the subject. He would welcome a Commission as having the same effect. It needed no seer to foretel that the feeling of the people of England would be true to their traditions and history.


said, he did not rise in answer to the appeal which had so often been made to independent Members, because on such a question as this they ought all to be independent Members; but he rose mainly with the object of expressing to the Government a very strong wish that before this debate closed they would see their way to adopting some course which would save the House from a Division. He foresaw that not only the great Party to which he belonged, but the whole House, would by a division be placed in a false position. There had been a great deal of misunderstanding on the subject, some misrepresentation, and there had been admittedly many mistakes, and he himself would not be a party to making another. He believed that a division would be a mistake. The House was actuated by a sense of double duty in the course which it had to take. Its first duty was that which it owed to itself, a duty big with great, noble, and glorious traditions; a duty which had its origin in the deepest and strongest feelings which could actuate the English people—hatred of slavery. Its second duty was that which we owed to our neighbours. They were all of one mind upon this subject; but if a division happened the old Party organization would come in, and the Liberals would go into one Lobby and the Conservatives into another; and the impression would consequently get abroad that the Liberal Party were the friends of the slave, and the Conservatives his enemies. He, as a Conservative, had a strong objection to being placed in such a false position. He did not say that the Government wished to place them in that position; but the necessitas rei would place them in it if there was a division upon this Motion. He should have thought that the policy which was dictated by high feeling and spirit would have been easy to adopt; but when they came to put on paper their instructions to carry out that policy, the lawyers immediately disputed about every word. He did not want to argue this question on petty considerations. They had had rather too much of that lately. Let them try to decide so as not to be hard on the slave, nor uncivil to their neighbours, nor untrue to Treaties. But the difficulty was, how was that to be done? Both sides of the House were of the same mind as to what ought to be done. They wanted, in fact, to do the same thing. All they needed was a clever fellow to tell them how it was to be done; but they could not find him. He was afraid the Government would, if they persisted in their course, find themselves in a false position. They had issued a Circular, and now they were going to appoint a Commission. He had always thought that the object of a Commission was to get information; but the Government had issued the Circular without that information. If information were necessary, why not suspend the Circular? There was really no sense in saying—"We have issued a Circular, and now we want information." That was putting the cart before the horse. He was very anxious that they should, if possible, avoid a Division, as it would be sure to be misinterpreted. He had a very strong opinion that there were a good many Members on the Conservative side of the House who did not like this business. They did not see their way to its approval, and they did not think it had been conducted with that dexterity which might have been expected. In saying that, he did not wish to throw any discredit on the Government. He gave them full credit for good intentions. He believed they wanted to do what was right; but that was not always a very easy thing to do. He thought the matter might very well be left to the discretion of our naval officers. He repeated that he did not like the Circular. It had an ugly hard sound about it. Moreover, he did not think it was necessary. In conclusion, he was sure of this—that if they were dragged into a division the only effect on the mind of the country would be that the action of the House of Commons would be misconceived, and the existing confusion would be rendered still more confounded.


said, the debate afforded the most lamentable history of tu quoque that he had ever listened to. The time of the House had been occupied throughout by an accusation on one side of, "You did it," and of the retort on the other side that "You did it quite as much as we." He thought the time had arrived when this country ought to put aside all precedents and boldly declare that henceforth the grand principle England would act upon was that there should be no peace for slavery. Having abolished slavery in their own possessions, they sought to lay down the principle which lay at the root of the Resolution before the House. Until lately, however, they could not do it. Their position was complicated by the case of America, to which the cursed legacy of slavery had been left by ourselves. But that had all gone. It was not until 1865 that, in a Circular, they laid down anything like a principle. It was then declared that Great Britain was determined to put down the slave trade, and that there was a system of domestic slavery with which they did not wish to interfere. He did not say they ought to interfere with domestic slavery; but what he desired to see laid down was that they would never recognize it again in their dealings with those who maintained it. Then, in 1870, they had the Circular of Lord Clarendon with respect to Madagascar, saying that they were not warranted in depriving the inhabitants of slaves who were rightfully their property. This nation, however, had spoken out on the subject, and the time had come when they did not own that slaves were the rightful property of anyone—that any man could have property in another. They could not do better than to let it be clearly understood that for the future, whatever might have been done in the past, they would do all that lay in their power to mitigate the horrors of slavery, and, if possible, put an end to it altogether. At length they came to the two Circulars of the present Government, and they found themselves in this position—that scarcely a single case could be mentioned of a difficulty arising in respect of the slave trade that was not due to the determination of those with whom they had Treaties on the subject to break through those Treaties. It was to that, and not to their naval officers, that those difficulties were to be attributed. They could not put down slavery and leave the slave trade alone; and it was time they should recognize that fact, as he believed they could now do with safety and propriety. He should have liked to see the Resolution of the hon. Member for Bedford worded more strongly than it was, and that it should declare that a slave once admitted to the protection of the British flag became from that moment free, and should not be permitted to return to slavery. The principle of the Amendment was no principle at all, and for that matter there was no reason why it should not have been made a rider to the original Motion. They might have a Commission if it were necessary to enlighten them as to the state of the law, of which different versions had been given on both sides of the House; but the question of the law did not affect the real question now at issue. He, for one, did not mind whether it was the Lord Chancellor or the Attorney General who was right in his law. He declined altogether to go into cases and precedents, by which Lord Derby and Lord Clarendon had felt themselves to be bound; for, whatever the law might have been in the past, there ought to be no doubt as to the course which this country meant to take in the future. If any Circular gave the slightest encouragement to slavery he should deem it his duty to vote against it, from whichever side of the House it might have emanated. This question was likely to become a Party one, unless Her Majesty's Government would join in the attempt to do away with slavery. The House ought to lay down the principle that henceforth it would never hold out the hand to slavery, and he felt sure that the voice of the nation would support the House, even at the risk of losing any association with the most important port of Madagascar. The nation did not want to infringe any grand principle of International Law; what it wanted was to refuse in future to recognize the property of man in man. Supposing one of our men-of-war happened to be in the territorial waters of a State in which human sacrifices were legal, and a slave escaped to the ship at the time when he was about to be murdered, would the captain give up a human being to be massacred, whatever might be the municipal law of the country? The owner of the fugitive might say—"I demand him on the ground that he is my slave. It is true I am going to sacrifice him as a sacrifice to the gods, but I do not put it on that ground; I only ask you not to deprive me, an inhabitant of this country, of a slave who is rightfully my property." He was aware that this was an extreme case, but principles must be tested by extreme cases; and, moreover, it was only in such cases that difficulties had arisen. It was time that they should make up their mind boldly and definitely to sweep away all cases of Treaties and precedents—[Ironical cries of"Hear, hear "]—which made war on the personal liberty of the slave. Hon. Gentlemen opposite might derisively cheer that statement; but they might depend upon it that it would be repeated in the country, which was now thoroughly alive to the importance of this question. Let them try once more to get into the front of the fight for freedom, in which Great Britain had in bygone days taken a leading part, and let them afterwards take steps to secure the co-operation of America, France, Prussia, and the nations of the civilized world. If a Royal Commission was appointed, what was the captain of a Queen's ship to do meanwhile? When a slave sought shelter on board, was the captain to say—" I should like to protect you, but the fact is that a Royal Commission is sitting just now, and until it has reported I can do nothing for you; a few months hence the question may be settled, and if I come back here I may then be able to take you on board; but, meanwhile, back you go—back to slavery, or even to torture and to death?" Was that the answer that that was to be given to the poor fugitive slave by a British officer? The House would answer "No;" the country would answer "No; and, indeed, the country was answering "No" every day with an emphasis that could not be mistaken. If the Prime Minister was present, he (Mr. Waddy) would appeal to him to take advantage of the opportunity now offered him of acting in accordance with the unanimous feeling of that House and of the country. He would ask him now, towards the close of his long political life, to join his name to the names of the great men who in times past had laboured for the abolition of slavery, and to add the crowning stone to the edifice of which the foundations were laid by Wilberforce and his contemporaries.


said, it had never been his fortune to listen to a debate in that House in which more ability, earnestness, and sentiment, had been cut to waste. In dealing with matters of this kind it was necessary to drop sentiment and adopt practical views. As far as he had been able to gather from the tone of the debate, there was no difference of opinion on either side of the House. They had but one object, and that was to mitigate the evils of slavery. What they had now to consider was how they were to deal with existing circumstances. It was all very well for the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just spoken to tell them that they must at once denounce slavery, and if a pronunciamiento from this country could at once put a stop to it, they would all endorse the proposal. He remembered when he was once lying in a foreign port news arrived of a very large capture of slavers, and happening to meet at dinner that day with a distinguished individual who was largely embarked in slave-trade speculations, he asked him whether the reported capture would have the effect of putting a stop to the slave trade? The reply was that a speculation which paid 22½ per cent could not be stopped by any human ingenuity. He believed his informant was perfectly correct. It would certainly never be stopped by making speeches in the House of Commons. It appeared to him that the Motion, if carried, would rather tend to complicate the difficulties of the position than to smooth them down. The hon. Member for Bedford and the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) both repudiated any Party feeling in this matter, and there had been assurances from all quarters that this was not a Party question. All he could say, after a good many years' experience in that House, was that if it was not a Party question, it looked wonderfully like one. His right hon. Friend advised that both sides of the House should take counsel together; but was it possible for them, as a body, to deal with a question involving the construction of Treaties and complicated points of law? It was perfectly hopeless for the House to undertake such a task; and if it did, it must fail in the undertaking. If the House could not deal with it, somebody must—and what could be better than a Royal Commission? He was no partizan; but he believed that the Government were perfectly right in the course they had suggested. The right hon. Member for Bradford had objected to the instruction which informed commanders of Her Majesty's ships-of-war that within the territorial waters of a foreign State they were bound by the comity of nations, while maintaining the proper exemption of their own ships from local jurisdiction, not to allow them to become shelters for those who would be chargeable with a violation of the law of the place. He, for one, could see no objection to this instruction; because to deny it was to say that England was omnipotent, and could with impunity, and in defiance of Treaties, break the laws of other countries. He asked how the House of Commons could endorse a proposition like that? He was heartily desirous that they should find some escape from the difficulty which he admitted they were all placed in; but of this he was sure—that it would not be found in the Motion before them. To what higher or better tribunal, then, could they resort than to a Royal Commission composed of some of the ablest men in the country? No one in the House or out of it was more anxious that slavery should be put down and finally got rid of all the world over; but what would be the result of dividing upon the Motion? Why, it would inevitably have the effect of conveying the impression that there were two Parties in the House—one in favour of slavery, and the other opposed to it. Was that the way to get rid of slavery? Would not the creation of such an idea contribute greatly to weaken the moral force of this country in dealing with the question? It had cost England a large amount of blood and treasure in her endeavour to put down the slave trade; but he believed that the moral example of the country had contributed to that end more largely than anything that had been done by our cruisers and by force of arms. If, however, they were to put forth the impression now that there was a strong party in the country still in favour of slavery, they would enormously diminish its moral force. He implored the House to consider this point before they came to a division upon the subject. Great stress had been laid upon the fact that during the complications which had occurred where our men-of-war had acted upon the slavery question, in only one case had instructions been applied for. That one fact was sufficient to justify the Government in issuing full and complete instructions to the officers in command of Her Majesty's ships as to the course they were to adopt under the difficult and complicated circumstances with which they had to deal. No officer should be left in doubt as to the course he should pursue; because, if he were left to himself, he might, with the best intentions, render himself liable to be sued for damages, although he had performed a duty which humanity demanded of him. Why ought such a responsibility to be thrown upon our naval officers, instead of each Government taking the responsibility of dealing with the question? He happened to hear that morning a case that occurred a good many years ago to an old and gallant friend of his, now one of the most distinguished Admirals in the Service. It did not apply directly to the slave question; but it showed the difficulties with which our officers had sometimes to contend. His gallant friend took upon himself to release, by force, an Englishman who he thought was unjustly detained in a foreign port. The attempt succeeded in consequence of the gallantry on the part of the releasing party, who were opposed to a much superior force. His gallant Friend sailed from the port a day or two afterwards for the Pacific, and on his arrival there he found two letters—one containing a very severe reprimand from the Board of Admiralty for the course he had taken, and the other from the then Foreign Secretary (Lord Palmerston) giving him the highest possible encomiums for his gallant exploit. Well, he asked, ought any officer to be placed in a position in which he was liable at once to be praised and blamed, and still less in a position where he was called upon to deal with complicated questions which puzzled the ablest lawyers in that House? What would inevitably happen if they passed the Resolution? They would then have proclaimed that every slave setting foot on one of Her Majesty's ships was a free man. The fact would become known in States in which domestic slavery existed, and what would happen if a body of 500 or 1,000 slaves were to force themselves—knowing they would thus become free men—on board a Queen's ship? It was a case—whatever the number might be—sure to occur as the inevitable consequence of adopting the Resolution; and what, under such circumstances, was the commanding officer to do? He could not send them back, and yet he might have no means of stowing or feeding them. He trusted that the House would decline to deal with the question in a manner which would land us in such endless difficulties. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford said that, this not being a Party question—although it looked very like one—no humiliation would attach to the Government if they accepted the Motion; but he trusted he had shown the right hon. Gentleman that such a course, instead of lessening, would greatly increase and aggravate existing difficulties. He did not see why the argument in favour of withdrawal should not hold good in one case as well as the other. Why should not hon. Members on both sides take counsel together in order to get the House out of the false position in which it was now placed? Let both the Motion and the Amendment be withdrawn, and let it stand forth to the world that Party spirit had no share in the matter, and that the House was unanimous in its desire to do away with slavery and the slave trade. If, however, they refused to withdraw the Motion and Amendment they would compel the House to stultify itself and make the question of slavery a mere stalking-horse for Party strife.


said, that if the debate had been conducted in the spirit of the speech of the hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) there would hare been no difficulty in keeping it outside Party questions. But on the other side of the House attacks had been made on the conduct of Liberal Administrations, and it was not possible that these attacks should not be met with some reply. The hon. Member for Tamworth (Mr. Hanbury), the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Mills), the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, and the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) appeared to have spoken from one brief, which contained only the words—"No case—abuse the opposite attorney." ["Oh, oh!"] He would justify that assertion. Their argument was that the Government had been hampered and fettered by the precedents and legislation of previous Liberal Administrations. That was not a defence worthy of a Government in a case of this kind, because a Government was bound to stand upon the justice and merits of its own decrees. The precedents relied upon by the other side were only six in number. The first was the case of the Romney in 1837. That was, however, no precedent for the action of the Government, but a decision of Lord Palmerston's on a specific case, and the clue was to be found in the letter of the Havana Commissioners, nor was there a person who would not say that Lord Palmerston was the last person to have put his hand to the second Circular. There was then the case of the Danube in. 1856, which was the first of Lord Clarendon's decisions, and it was to the effect that a slave once received on board a British man-of-war could not be surrendered. [Mr. HAN-BURY: That was in Brazilian waters.] He would admit that Lord Clarendon's subsequent decisions were not in accordance with that doctrine. Then came the cases of the Nymph, the Dryad, and the Daphne, and these Lord Clarendon decided in accordance, not with the first but the second Circular of the Government. He would not ask whether the Government were right or wrong in issuing this second Circular; but in what possible sense or manner could they have been hampered or fettered by these precedents? These were, in fact, conflicting decisions, and he admitted that the Government were entitled to cite those of 1869 and 1870 as precedents in their favour. If they were of opinion that their last decision was right, then the Government were not justified in sheltering themselves behind the decisions of Lord Clarendon, as if they were hampered and fettered by them. If, on the contrary, the Government regarded their decision as wrong, they must now be aware that nothing would have given them greater strength and popularity with the country than to have over-ridden those personal decisions of Lord Clarendon. He now came to the legislation of 1873. He regretted that the Secretary for War was not present; because he felt bound to question the arguments which the right hon. Gentlemen had addressed to the House the other night. In the first place, he would contend that that argument was irrelevant; because they were dealing with fugitive slaves, and not with the capture of slave traders. The right hon. Gentleman went further, because he accused the late Government of a kind of plot in 1873 in passing through the House of Commons during the small hours of the morning, and without discussion, an Act which took away the liberties that were guaranteed to the slave under former Acts of Parliament.


I never said anything of the sort.


said, that if the right hon. Gentleman said nothing, there was of course nothing to reply to.


It is a reply to a statement that is utterly incorrect.


I think the right hon. Gentleman is hardly courteous. I am in the recollection of the House, and I am ready to say what were the statements of the right hon. Gentleman. What he said the other night was that in the Consolidation Act of 1873, which he said was an Act passed without discussion, certain provisions of previous Acts of Parliament had been repealed or left out.


I said nothing of the kind. It was the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. A. Mills). I said nothing of the sort.


If I am mistaken, of course, I apologize to the right hon. Gentleman. At any rate, the argument was adduced.


But not by me.


said, he would address himself to an argument which he thought the right hon. Gentlemen would not deny. The argument stood in this way. It had been supposed that the Consolidation Act of 1873 deprived the slave of the opportunity of procuring his freedom which was conferred upon him by the Act of 1824, for it provided that in case of an appeal from the decision of the Court on the seizure of a slaver, the slaver, instead of being surrendered, should be valued and treated as if he had become the prize of the Crown. His (Mr. Stansfeld's) answer to that objection and charge against the late Administration was, that that was the reading of the Act of 1873. The answer to that objection was that in the Act of 1873 no special provision was made respecting slaves illegally detained in slavery which had been specially provided for in the Act of 1824, which had become obsolete before the passing of the Act of 1873. But the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War said the second Circular did infinitely more for the slave than any previous Circular. Now, if there was any infinitude at all, it was the infinitude of littleness, so far as the liberties of the slave were concerned. It deprived the captains of our ships of war of almost every possible discretion in dealing either with the reception or protection of slaves who might seek a refuge in their vessels. The Circular destroyed all discretion, and there was absolutely no conceivable case of a slave fleeing from outrage, torture, or even from life itself in which a captain would be entitled to exercise his discretion in receiving that slave under the protection of the British flag. According to the terms of the Circular a slave might be received on board if his life was in imminent danger; but when he had been rescued from that danger what was the commander of the ship called upon to do? He was no longer to permit that man to remain under the protection of the British flag or on board that vessel. The word "surrender," which was objectionable and dangerous, was avoided; but, in point of fact, they did not leave any discretion to their commanders in any exigency, however urgent to receive a slave under the British flag. No one could imagine that whether the law did or did not require such a course of proceeding the country would submit to such a regulation. The hon. Member for West Norfolk said he could not vote for this Resolution because it was illegal and inconsistent with International Law and the obligations of Treaties; but he (Mr. Stansfeld) maintained there was nothing whatever illegal in the Resolution of his hon. Friend. He did not deny that the Circular was legal; but it did not express the policy and will of the country, and it imposed greater burdens than they were willing to take on themselves in regard to existing International Law and the comity of nations. International Law was somewhat elastic, and there was nothing in it which compelled them to deprive the commanders of their vessels of all discretion. The only penalty of refusing to surrender a slave would be compensation, and that penalty the country would be prepared to pay. A very sensible letter had appeared in The Times on the 28th of January—written by a captain who had served 10 years on the East Coast of Africa—as to the effect the Circular was likely to have on the officers of the Navy. The writer referred to a case which had occurred to himself, in which he was justified in exercising a discretion under the circumstances and giving refuge to a slave. He said he felt he had not a justification which would entitle him to refuse every compensation and he paid it, amounting to $60, out of his own pocket. He knew many would think him very wrong; but he was only too glad to get out of the scrape so cheaply. He added that cases of this description were not of frequent occurrence. The instance mentioned was the only one which had come under his notice during a service of 10 years in Africa and five in Brazil; but he thought the effect of the Circular would prevent captains from using their discretion. With reference to that letter, what he desired was, that there should be nothing of the hands of commanders of vessels so that they could not exercise discretion in the name and for the sake of humanity; and that if they did exercise it, the cost to which they were put in exercising that discretion should be repaid to them. The Amendment of the hon. Member for Tamworth was a curious one. Surely, if the Government and their supporters had the courage of their opinions, they would have negatived the Resolution of the hon. Member for Bedford; but they had not ventured to negative it, although they maintained that their Circular did all they could do for the slave under the hampering and fettering conditions of previous legislation. But what did the Amendment say? "That in order to maintain most effectually the right of personal liberty, it is desirable to await further information from the Report of a Royal Commission" before withdrawing the Circular, which did nothing for personal liberty and forbad anything to be done. But the House must look not only to the Amendment, but to the terms of the Commission and to the Speech from the Throne, in order to see what the object of the Commission was. According to Her Majesty's gracious Speech, it was— to ascertain whether any steps ought to be taken to secure for my ships and their Commanders abroad greater power for the maintenance of the right of personal liberty. But if such was the object of the Commission, did not the House perceive that that meant negotiations and Treaties with innumerable small slave-holding States? And, if there was any logic in the Amendment, the Circular must be maintained not only until the Report of the Commission, but until those negotiations and Treaties were concluded and greater power was obtained. Now, the House and the Government knew that the second Circular could not be maintained indefinitely. They knew perfectly well that the withdrawal of the second Circular was only a question of occasion and of time. The Government might not choose to withdraw it until they had come to issue upon the Motion of his hon. Friend (Mr. Whit-bread); that was a question for their own decision. What they had to do on that side of the House was to justify themselves before the House and the country, in supporting his hon. Friend, and in dividing with him on his Motion. There was one conclusive reason, whatever the issue might be, why they were bound to take the division to-night. He had not attempted to make any marked distinction between the action of successive Governments in this matter. He had admitted that in the decision of Lord Clarendon the present Government had found a precedent which they were entitled to use. But there was a respect in which no possible parallel could be made between that precedent and the action of the present Government. The precedent of Lord Clarendon was the personal decision of a Foreign Secretary who was divided against himself; but the second Circular was the deliberate production of a Cabinet, put before the country on the withdrawal of the previous Circular as their ultimate view of the obligations of this country with respect to the reception of fugitive slaves. But that was not all. The second Circular was the answer of the Cabinet to the almost unanimous and indignant demand of the British public for the withdrawal of their earlier Circular; and, that being the answer of the Cabinet to the demand of the British public, that public was bound to say whether it accepted that answer or not. But the House knew that the second Circular, in public opinion, was condemned as well as the first. If the House did not challenge that Circular, they would accept it and would be bound by it, as if it were the bond of all the slave-holding countries in the world for all time to come. That was an obligation which that side of the House could not accept for the purpose of avoiding the unpleasantness of a Party discussion. He did not know what the issue of that night's division would be, but he did know two things; first of all, that this Circular was already condemned by the country, and secondly, that, sooner or later, it would be withdrawn.


said, if ever there had been any doubt whether this was a Party discussion it was impossible, considering the words of the Motion and the time at which it had been introduced, to have any longer a doubt on the subject. Scarcely was it announced that a Royal Commission would be appointed, than the occasion was seized for the manufacturing of the Notice of Motion, and the interval which had elapsed since Notice was given had been devoted to a very extensive correspondence to secure a large attendance for a discussion which surely was not described in that correspondence as a non-Party discussion. The topics involved in the issues before the House were grave, important, complicated, difficult to be discussed and decided in a large Assembly like the House of Commons, and much more likely to be prudently, wisely, and cautiously considered by a Commission nominated by the Crown. It was not a little worthy of notice that during this long discussion not a single statement had been made that anything contained in the second Circular was opposed to our law. In the matter under discussion there were some things clear and some things obscure. It could not be denied that a ship in the territorial waters of another State had an extra-territorial character for certain purposes; but in none of the remarks of hon. and learned Members opposite had he heard the unqualified statement that for all purposes it had an extra-territorial character. The hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James) had only stated that, as regarded the ship, her crew, and discipline, a public ship did possess extra-territoriality. It should be remembered that the wide privileges which a national ship possessed in the territorial waters of another State were conferred by the comity, which was another word for the courtesy, of nations, though the hon. and learned Member for Taunton appeared to speak as if they were different things. All those privileges were based on a presumed consent. That presumed consent implied two parties; and if one conferred those privileges, it was on condition that the municipal law of the country would not be violated by the other. Chief Justice Marshall, of the United States, put the proposition most widely for the ship, when he said the Sovereign of the port must be considered to have conceded a privilege to the extent to which it was asked; that was the way in which it was put in all recent discussions, and that was putting the case for the ship as widely and as broadly as on the whole could be suggested. He accepted the proposition; and, presuming that outside territorial waters the captain said—"I desire to enter your port, and I ask for the privilege of preserving the ex-territoriality of my ship and the privilege and right of carrying off fugitive slaves which may come on board my ship," could there be any doubt what the answer of the Sovereign of the port would be? We could not, in considering the matter, discard the dictates of common sense. The ship was not invited; it was a matter of indifference to the Sovereign of the port whether it entered or not; it went there voluntarily, it might be for supplies—and surely it was a strong proposition, and an entirely unreasonable one, unsupported by law, that that vessel was not bound to respect the municipal law of the port. The answer to the objection of the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread), that the second Circular did not refer to any class except that of slaves, was furnished by the heading, "Fugitive Slave Circular." That meant it did not purport to deal with political refugees, who were dealt with by other Circulars; but it was presupposed to be addressed specially to those who would have to consult it in countries where slavery was a domestic institution. The second Circular dealt fairly, moderately, and with a caution which was absolutely necessary with an intricate and difficult question; but it preserved absolutely our own jurisdiction; it repudiated absolutely the right of surrender. It did not unduly run in the face of the domestic institution of any country, and it had been argued that that was practically the same as surrender; but it was nothing of the kind. The Circular did not deal with cases of extradition; it preserved to the captain the power of deciding as to the retention of a slave with the courteous regard to the obligation cast upon him by the hospitality he received. If the hon. Member for Bedford wanted a Circular that would please slave-owners more, he would find in the Sailing Orders of 1871 an order after the slave-owner's own heart. The withdrawn Circular required, before anything at all was gone into, that there should be a demand by a slave-owner; but even that was not to be found in the Sailing Orders of 1871, which, whether there was a demand or not, placed captains not only under an obligation to restore slaves to slavery, but to find out the owner of each slave and restore him to his owner. The right hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House spoke ungenerously of that eminent statesman the late Lord Clarendon, and said those Orders were the mere personal decisions of a Foreign Secretary divided against himself. Whatever might be the issue of this discussion, there could be little doubt as to on which side of the House generosity and manliness lay. On the first night of the Session the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government manfully, frankly, and boldly avowed his responsibility for the Circulars issued under his Government. There was no questioning or denying. Let the House contrast that with what it heard from the front bench opposite. The Act of Parliament of 1873, passed when the late Government was in power, was not three years old, and yet they could not find out its author. It was a kind of foundling Act of Parliament. They had been unable to discover the source of the Sailing Orders. Lord Clarendon was a statesman of experience, and a distinguished Liberal Leader and statesman. He was dead; but the suggestion was that the matter rested on his mere personal decision, and that he was divided against himself. But was that so? The Note of June, 1856, was specially founded upon the Aberdeen Act, was justified under the special circumstances of the case, and harmonized with subsequent Acts. As to Lord Palmerston, it was said that he acted on his own responsibility. Well, he acted on his own responsibility for many years in a prominent and powerful position. But he was no more, and he was passed by as a person who was not entitled to any special weight upon this matter. It had been said that the second Circular should be withdrawn; but what was the proposed substitute? Instead of something clear and definite, they found in the Resolution a careful abstention from suggesting any single plain proposition as to the status of a fugitive slave when he got on board a man-of-war. It was not stated either by implication or at all that the fugitive slave when he went on board a man-of-war acquired the status of a free man. On the contrary, the words, prepared with consideration and consultation, were very cautious, and simply said that the slave must be treated as if he were free. Was there anything in the second Circular inconsistent with that? As to the fugitive not being asked to leave the ship on the ground that he was a slave, he might be required to do so on any other ground for all that appeared in the Resolution. The hon. and learned Member for Taunton had not gone beyond the Resolution; he shrank from stating that the fugitive slave acquired the status of freedom in territorial waters. From beginning to end there was no suggestion that went to the extent of asserting the status of the fugitive; but the cautious terms of the Resolution minimized the undefined and uncertain rights of our men-of-war. The words, "admitted to the protection of the British flag," according to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Taunton and the letters of "Historicus," meant admitted on board a British ship with the sanction of the captain; and if that sanction were wanting, the slave could not be regarded as admitted to the protection of the British flag. That entirely gave up the principle contended for that the slave who planted his foot on a British ship acquired the status of a free man. That was a broad proposition contended for out-of-doors, but not accepted by the other side, or supported by the authority of "Historicus." The case of the stowaway slave who had stood upon the deck of a British man-of-war, under the English flag, but who had been surrendered back into slavery, was one in point, and it was a mere quibble, for principle there was none, to say that there was any distinction between a stowaway slave and a fugitive slave, because the former had come on board surreptitiously, and without the consent of the commander of the vessel. Once it was admitted that persons with the admitted status of slaves could stand on the deck of a British man-of-war without losing that status, and without becoming free, then the arguments that had been used by hon. Members opposite resolved themselves into mere sentiment. In some foreign stations slaves were employed in coaling our ships of war, and he wished that hon. Members opposite would tell him what was the status of the 100 or 200 slaves after they had been so employed; was the commander of the British man-of-war to carry them away to freedom, or to surrender them back to slavery? Turning to the Act of 1873, he asked whether there was any magic in the word "fugitive," as applied to slaves, that gave a fugitive slave a different status from all other slaves, because under that Act slaves seized on board ships, under certain conditions, were to be restored to slavery, notwithstanding they had set foot on board our men-of-war. What distinction could it make that the slaves were seized in the course of an Act for the suppression of the slave trade? The point remained that a slave could admittedly stand on the deck of a British man-of-war without, according to British law, losing his status of a slave. As to the right of the commanding officers of our men-of-war to receive slaves on board of their ships, he said nothing, because the point was concluded by the admirable quotation from "Historicus" which had been cited by the Secretary of State for War, in which that eminent and distinguished writer suggested that the proper course for the commander of a ship of war to take was to give directions to the officers of the watch and to the sentries on duty that under no circumstances were they to allow a slave to set foot on board his vessel. The result of the rule laid down by that learned writer was, that either absolutely no discretion was left to our naval officers in the matter, or else that they were so bound down and fettered by rules that they could scarcely take any independent action with regard to the reception or the non-reception of fugitive slaves. But what bearing had our Treaties on this question? He would take the case of Madagascar, mentioned in the Papers. By Treaties affecting the Slave Trade of Madagascar all the slaves imported after 1865 were to be made free. Supposing, however, that Madagascar should claim to be freed from the obligation, on the ground that our vessels of war had carried off as free persons who had been imported as slaves before that date, and should therefore refuse to set free those who had been imported in subsequent years, should we not be obliged to admit the justice of their reasoning; and would it be prudent to imperil the success of a Treaty under which thousands of slaves would be set free, in order that we might carry off in a half-smuggling, unsatisfactory way, without making compensation to their owners, some two or three slaves who succeeded in getting on board our men-of-war? The question of Treaties was one which was to be considered with the closest possible attention. The course adopted by the Government on this most important and difficult occasion, of issuing a Commission of exceptional strength, was most desirable. He ventured to think that the debates which had occurred, and that the contradictory opinions which had been expressed even by eminent lawyers, showed the desirability of settling the question by the issue of a Royal Commission. He should support the Amendment, and he ventured to hope and believe that the labours of the Commission would result in the acquisition of information which would largely tend to the development of the principle of personal freedom.


observed, that at this late stage of the discussion they should endeavour to clear it from the extraneous matters which had grown up in the course of the debate, and which only tended to obscure the real point at issue. He would, therefore, ask the House to be patient with him for a short time while he endeavoured to get rid of the husk in order to arrive at the kernel. In doing so he refused altogether to discuss the tu quoque argument which had formed the staple of the speeches from the other side. It was at its best a very bad political argument, and was quite out of place when they were discussing a national question. A great deal had been said about the difference between domestic slavery and the slave trade, and he admitted that while we had made great efforts to put down the latter, we had not undertaken a crusade against domestic slavery. The question was how we were to deal with the question of the position of a slave on board an English ship-of-war. That had nothing whatever to do with the question of the slave trade as affected by our Treaties, and the rights we had in foreign territories. There had been a great deal of mystification about the Treaties. No doubt those Treaties authorized exceptional acts. If you got leave from a man to go into his house to do a particular act, of course you were not at liberty to do any other act than that which he had authorized you to do. But what had that to do with the rights you had in your own house or on board your own ship, which was a totally different thing, and that was the thing they were discussing that night. If they went under slave trade Treaties and took steps which were not authorized, they would be rendering themselves guilty of unlawful acts. A good deal had been made of the Act of 1873, That was the cheval de bataille of the hon. Member for Tamworth, and so complete was his oblivion on the subject that when the hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James) asked him if that was such a dreadful Act why he did not do something to prevent its passing or to amend it, he said, with all the confidence of youth—" I was not in Parliament at that time." He (Sir William Harcourt) should have thought that one of the first things which the hon. Member for Tamworth would have remembered would have been that he had a seat in the last Parliament, and if he sat in the last Parliament he must have been present when the Act of 1873 was passed.


said, that a minute after he said he was not in Parliament at the time he recollected that he was in Parliament, and he immediately went across the floor of the House, and communicated the correction to the hon. and learned Member for Taunton while he was speaking, in order that he might put it before the House.


said, he did not intend to cast any reproach upon the hon. Member for Tamworth. The Act of 1873 had altered nothing in the state of our legislation with reference to the slave trade or the question of slavery. It was a pure Consolidation Act prepared by Mr. Rothery, who had charge of the Slave Trade Department. The notion that it had altered the state of things was a complete delusion. All the arguments therefore which were founded upon that notion were false trails which had been drawn across the scent. He would, however, come to the real question before the House. The whole subject might be divided into two questions—were we bound by international obligations to surrender a slave taken on board in the territorial waters of another State or were we not? That was a question of law; and, secondly, if we were not so bound, should we do so? That was a question of policy. He would apply himself to the first point—Were they bound as a matter of international obligation to surrender a slave in that situation? He said, without hesitation and without limitation—They were not bound to do so. He would refer to the first Circular, not for any purpose of recrimination, but simply to examine the question of law, because it was important to see why the first Circular was withdrawn, and what was the bad law which induced its withdrawal. He did not wish to add to the difficulties and embarrassments of his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General. They were sufficiently considerable. But the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Gibson) opposite took upon himself to lecture Gentlemen on the other side of the House as to manliness and generosity in the way they treated their own Party. He thought that the hon. and learned Member might have taken into consideration the manner in which the Law Officers of the Crown were treated by the Government before he delivered his lecture on the subject. The first Circular was founded on a supposed obligation on the part of a ship to submit to the local law of the port. Well, if that was so, all he could say was that they reduced the Queen's ships to the condition of a merchant vessel, because that was the situation of a merchant vessel; but if that doctrine was true, then he very much agreed with the Attorney General that the first Circular was just as good as the second. If you said there was this distinction between a public vessel and a merchant vessel, that in the case of a merchant vessel the authorities of the port carried out the police regulations themselves on board the ship, but in the case of a public vessel the ship's officers were to execute the local law, that was not immunity at all, and he would much prefer that their own police should come and do their own dirty work in a Queen's ship. That was not what he meant by the immunity of a public ship. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War challenged him to say what he meant by extra-territoriality. The hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down seemed to intimate that the hon. and learned Member for Taunton and himself (Sir William Harcourt) would shrink from defining extra-territoriality. But he did not shrink, and he would give the right hon. Gentleman a definition of it in words which would deserve more attention than any he (Sir William Harcourt) could utter. M. Ortolan, a distinguished captain in the French Marine, and a great international jurist, speaking of extra-territoriality, said, and he (Sir William Harcourt) adopted his words— This phrase signifies nothing else except that you must conduct yourself everywhere in respect of facts which occur and of persons who are found on hoard a ship-of-war as if those facts had occurred or those persons were found in the territory of the nation to which the ship belongs. This phrase announces a principle in a manner which makes it intelligible to all—to ordinary persons as well as to scientific lawyers, to the common sailor as well as to the officer. It teaches those who belong to the ship the sentiment of their native soil. It identifies the one with the other. If this phrase were not in use; if it had not become common in all nations, it would have been necessary to invent it. That was what he meant by the exterritoriality of a ship, and he did think it most dangerous and most deplorable that the authorities, either law or political, in a Government which rested more than anything else upon its naval arm, should be occupied from the beginning of the question in casting doubts upon the immunity of their ships. If anybody would read the speech of the Attorney General, of the Secretary of State for War, or of the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down, they would see that they had exerted all their ingenuity and influence to cut down the principle upon which more than anything else depended the integrity and strength of the Navy. He ventured to say that the right hon. and gallant Member for Stamford (Sir John Hay) had in his speech conveyed, though in different language, exactly the sentiments of his gallant colleague in the French Navy. There was a danger in the question, a mischief in both Circulars which was a question of national importance greater even than the importance of the slavery question itself. The Attorney General, who had referred to a work in which the use of metaphors was condemned, seemed to have studied that work with very little profit, for when he spoke of the extra-territoriality of merchant vessels he used a metaphor which was inapplicable and untrue. Merchant vessels were not extra-territorial within the waters of foreign States, but ships of war were. On the high seas, in war and in peace, such a ship was extra-territorial; in the harbours of foreign States, at all times, in all conditions, and to every extent, she was exterritorial; and when England shook that doctrine she shook the doctrine on which navies depended, and which no other maritime State in the world would surrender. He asserted that doctrine with some confidence, because it was mainly in consequence of its having been violated in the first Circular that the Circular was withdrawn. It said that the public ship on the high seas was a part of Her Majesty's dominions, but it implied that when she went into a foreign port she ceased to be a part of those dominions. When a jurist of the eminence of Lord Cairns came to consider that proposition, he found it was untenable, and the first Circular was withdrawn. But it was urged that, though that immunity existed, comity required them to regard the local law. There had been a great deal of doubt expressed by persons who had not made it their study as to what was meant by comity. The comity of nations was a very useful phrase, conveying a very intelligible idea. It had to do with a subject no doubt complicated in its application, which was called "the conflict of laws." The nature of that principle was a very simple one. It assumed the native domestic jurisdiction as being supreme; but it was found that in the communications which must be held between different States questions of foreign law would arise, and that in their internal and domestic jurisdiction it might be necessary and convenient to give operation to foreign law; and so they did in reference to contracts, status, and all manner of subjects. But then there lay at the bottom of it this fundamental principle—the question as to how far that foreign law should be applied, what kind of foreign law, in what manner, and to what extent it should be applied. And that was the basis of the application of the principle of comity. Now, being the judges how far that foreign law was to be applied, they might say there were certain classes of cases where, within our own jurisdiction, we would not apply foreign law. What were those cases? That greatest master on the subject of comity and the conflict of laws, Story, said— There are well established exceptions to the application of foreign law within your own jurisdiction, and what are these exceptions? All contracts and other similar things which in their own nature are founded on moral turpitude, and are inconsistent with the good order and sacred interests of society. All such contracts, though they might be held valid in the country where they are made, would be held void elsewhere, and ought to be, if the dictates of Christian morality, or even of natural justice, are allowed to have due force and influence in the administration of international jurisprudence. The next class of exceptions mentioned by Story were those contracts which were opposed to national policies and institutions; and such contracts were to be held void, whatever might be their validity in the country where they were made, because they were inconsistent with the policies and institutions of other countries where they were sought to be enforced; and Story mentioned slavery as an example of that principle. What followed from that? If the first proposition was clear, that a ship of war was ex-territorial, and therefore within their jurisdiction, then the comity of nations did not call on them to enforce on board such a ship any foreign law which violated the principles to which he had referred, and therefore not to enforce the law of slavery. That he believed to be the answer to the question raised with respect to the comity of nations. Then it was said—" Are you to go and force yourselves upon foreign States and offend and outrage them as you like?" Certainly not. Foreign States had a right to prescribe the conditions upon which they admitted to their ports. That he fully admitted. He admitted, also, that they ought to deal with weak States on the same principle as they dealt with strong. It was the great and sacred principle of the Law of Nations to assert that doctrine, and it was for the assertion and maintenance of that doctrine that the Law of Nations existed—that it should declare the equality of rights between the dwarfs and the giants of nations. But there was a correlative to that proposal—namely, that they had a right to declare the conditions which they would or would not accept. He would give an instance. In old days the British Ambassador would not be received by the Emperor of China unless he made the "kotow;" but our Ambassador (Lord Macartney) refused to go through that ceremony, and the Emperor of China admitted him all the same. He thought Lord Macartney took the proper line. There was a condition in old times that no trader should enter Japan unless he trampled on the Cross. The Dutch, he believed, entered on those terms, but others declined to enter on those terms, and people now traded with Japan without first trampling on the Cross. We could refuse, and we could prescribe the terms on which alone we would consent to enter the ports of foreign States. We had done so. The other day he met with a very remarkable document. It was a Treaty 200 years old, which dealt with this very question of the principles for which he was now contending. In those days the Barbary States—among others, Tunis, Tripoli, and Algiers—were powerful in the Mediterranean, and we had to deal with them as equals. In 1686 we made a Treaty with them in which it was declared that, when any of His Majesty's ships of war appeared before Tripoli, notice should be given by our Consul or the commander of the ship to the Chief Governor of Tripoli, when proclamation should be made to secure Christian captives; and, after that, if any Christians whatsoever made their escape on board any of the ships of war of His Majesty, they should not be required back again, nor should the said Consul or commander, or any other of His Majesty's subjects, be obliged to pay anything for the said Christians. That Treaty was made by a Monarch whom we did not regard in all respects as an admirable Sovereign; but the last Prince of the House of Stuart who sat on the British Throne, whatever faults he might have had, was a distinguished British Admiral. He knew what belonged to the English flag, and he made it a condition that when a slave escaped on board one of his ships he should not be restored. That Treaty was frequently repeated in the course of the subsequent century, and it was founded upon this principle:—" We do not come to your ports to invite away your slaves, to surprise you, or to take you at a disadvantage. We give you notice to take care of your slaves if you can; but we will not act as your police, and if these slaves get on board our ships we will not give them back." That was the principle upon which the Treaty was founded. We went on in the same way during the last century making Treaties of that kind. The Treaty of Tunis in 1751 laid down that if any slave of Tunis got on board an English man-of-war he should be free, and that neither the English Consul nor any person of his nation should be questioned on the subject. Those were Treaties, but precisely the same thing might be done by a Resolution such as was now before them. We might, in effect, say to foreign States—"We don't you intend to take you by surprise. Take care of your slaves, but understand that if they get on board our ships they shall be free." Upon this point his attention had been called by the Secretary of State for War to a letter, and the right hon. Gentleman did injustice to his great knowledge of the legal profession. He said he had derived his ideas of International Law from a letter which he had read in The Times newspaper. It so happened that he also (Sir William Harcourt) had his attention called to that letter. His attention was called to that letter by this remarkable circumstance—that the letter appeared in The Times newspaper, he believed, 24 hours before the Cabinet condemned the law of their own Law Officers. That was the circumstance which attracted his attention; and though he did not himself entertain quite so high an opinion of the writings of that author as the right hon. Gentleman expressed, he felt sure that if his observations had met the ear of the writer he would have been gratified. The right hon. Gentleman even went so far as to promise him a reversion of the office of Law Officer of the Crown. Fortunately that office was not vacant, or the right hon. Gentleman might have exposed himself to the operation of the Corrupt Practices Act. He (Sir William Harcourt) did not take his views of International Law from letters he read in The Times newspaper. He went to more ancient and original authorities; but after the remarkable panegyric which the right hon. Gentleman pronounced on the last night, he had looked at that letter again, and he confessed he had read it in a wholly different sense from that which the right hon. Gentleman had placed on it. The doctrine he found in that letter was entirely in accordance with the Resolution of his hon. Friend the Member for Bedford. It asserted that no man who came on board a ship of war should be restored. It asserted that there was no occasion whatever for having issued any Circular at all, because the captains of our men-of-war could be perfectly trusted to exercise their own discretion, and it ended by saying that some definite declaration must now be made to put an end to the mischief of the first Circular, which was withdrawn 24 hours after that letter appeared. What did it say about the new Circular which ought to be issued? It said that must be founded on principles exactly opposed to the first. The prayer of the writer of that letter was like the prayer addressed to Jove. The first portion of it was answered, the second was whistled down the wind; for although the first Circular was withdrawn, the second, although professedly founded on an opposite principle, did precisely the same thing. The Secretary of State for War quoted another author of a higher and different stamp from the writer in The Times, but he was sorry to hear that author quoted on this question. In his eloquent peroration the right hon. Gentleman quoted from Lord Stowell. Now Lord Stowell was a great lawyer, but a very bad politician. He was not a friend of freedom, and all his sympathies were on the side of slavery. No man could read his judgment in the case of the slave Grace, where he sneered at Lord Mansfield for his judgment in Somerson's case, without feeling that if Lord Stowell had been the judge a slave would still be a slave in England; and although that passage, elegant in its language, was a very proper argument in a speech in support of the second Circular, he was very sorry to hear it from the mouth of an English Secretary of State. Now, with regard to the second Circular, he would ask what did it mean? It had been said by a speaker on the other side that his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James) had said the second Circular was good in law. The difficulty, he insisted, was to know what exactly it meant to say. Did it mean or did it not mean to assert that there was an obligation to surrender the slave? for if it did mean to assert that, he was sure his hon. and learned Friend would agree with him that the second Circular was as bad in law as the first. But the great difficulty was that it was drawn up with such dexterity, and with such an obvious intention rather to evade than to settle the difficulty, that it was almost impossible to say what it did or did not mean to assert. He (Sir William Harcourt) said it did not mean to assert that there was any obligation to surrender the slave. His hon. Friend the Member for Durham (Mr. Pease) said that in certain cases they could refuse to surrender political refugees in violation of the municipal law. He was told lately by a distinguished Admiral that he had taken the whole of the Provisional Government of Palermo on board his ship, and that if the Government of Naples had asked for their surrender he should have known what to say to such a demand. The second Circular told the officer that he was to entertain no demand for surrender and enter into no investigation; but how was he to know the local law unless he had a demand? Then there must be some one to tell him that he had violated the local law, and he must enter into some investigation to satisfy himself whether he had done so or not. Yet the Circular said there was to be no demand and no investigation. If the second Circular did not say there was an obligation to surrender the man, then he contended the case was a thousand times worse as regarded that Circular. The first was more intelligible, for it went on the assumption that there was an obligation. That was bad law; but if the second Circular said there was no obligation then the Government had voluntarily and wantonly assumed the duty of giving up slaves, and that was, in his opinion, the vice of the second Circular. Therefore, the more they asserted that the law of the second Circular was good the more they condemned themselves, for they had voluntarily imposed upon our captains an odious duty which the Law of Nations did not demand. If the Government did not agree with him in this view, why did they not stand by their Circular? Why did they not take the opinion of the House upon it? After the eloquent speech of the Secretary of State for War, what was the logical conclusion? He said this Circular was right in law, consonant with justice, and good in policy. Why, then, did they not ask the House to negative the Motion of the hon. Member for Bedford? He would tell them why they did not do so. It was because, although they had a powerful, a loyal, and a devoted majority, they knew they could not trust it on such an issue. It was because they knew that behind that majority there was a much stronger force, and that was the constituencies. Why did they not say—"Here is a Circular drawn up by the Lord Chancellor, good in law and good in policy; we ask the House and the country to approve of it? "He thought, when listening to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, that he was going to nail the colours of the second Circular to the Conservative masts; but he took it there were more sagacious Statesmen who would not allow that course to be taken, and he doubted very much whether they should have at the close of that debate the language of "No Surrender" with reference to that second Circular. But instead of taking a clear issue on this matter the Government had appointed a Commission. What was it appointed for? Was it to revise our laws or to reform our policy? They had placed on it a distinguished Duke, a Chief Justice, and half-a-dozen lawyers. He thought the very composition of that Commission showed that they did not rightly comprehend the character of this question. It was no lawyer's question. It was not going to be settled by law, but by the voice of the English nation. He agreed with the hon. Member for Durham that this Commission was worse than useless, and thought it would be extremely mischievous. What would be the consequence of it? They would take up from every quarter every available suggestion, every technical difficulty, and the effect would be that they would obstruct the course they would ultimately be compelled to take, and the public Report of the Commission would be the greatest stumbling-block in their path and in the path of their Successors. Depend on it the House of Commons would before long sweep away all the cobwebs spun on this question. The experience of former Commissions was not fortunate. Two of the eminent persons now appointed had acted on Commissions—one the Merchant Shipping Commission, and the other the Labour Commission. What did they do when those Commissioners sent in their Report? They threw them overboard. Reference had been made to Commissions on which he (Sir William Harcourt) had acted; but those Commissions were to inquire into matters to be the foundation of future legislation. The Report of the present Commission could never be the foundation of future legislation. This was a question of high Executive policy, and with that no Commission could have any possible concern. He looked at the Amendment with regret, for instead of taking a distinct issue, and saying—" We are wrong, and you are right," which they might have done, they put in a dilatory plea, and asked the House to wait until they had time to consider the laws of foreign States. The sentiment of that paragraph was ignoble, and he hoped that whatever they did they would spare the House of Commons the humiliation of declaring that on the question of slavery they must wait until they knew the attitude of other Powers. He ventured to say that that sentence would be taken by the English people as an insult to the national pride. He thought that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite were the Party of a spirited nation; but he asked if it was part of their spirited foreign policy that they should look calmly on until they had ascertained what was the view taken by other countries with regard to our national ships? What did the Amendment declare? The first thing it declared, as it appeared to him, was the incapacity of Her Majesty's Ministers to deal with great national subjects. They did not want a Royal Commission in July. They thought they could settle the question themselves, and with the help of their Law Officers they issued the first Circular. The country pronounced against it. They suspended it in October, and cancelled it in November. They did not want a Royal Commission then, and they thought themselves capable, with a great lawyer as Lord Chancellor, of settling the question, and so the second Circular was issued. It was not until they were about to meet Parliament, and that they feared an Amendment would be moved on the Address, that the necessity of having a Royal Commission occurred to them. After these incredible failures, extending over eight months, what had they done? They had determined that Her Majesty's Government must go elsewhere—to other persons to settle the question which they had failed to settle for themselves, and that was the conduct of what was called a great and capable Administration. He did not complain of the judgment which they passed on themselves. They and the majority behind them had a right to judge of the capacity of the Government, and if they chose to solicit a Vote of Want of Confidence in themselves, they had a right to do so; but the Amendment did more, inasmuch as it offered a Vote of Want of Confidence in the House of Commons. That was a far more serious matter, and he should like to know when, in the course of this century, the House of Commons had felt itself to be incapable of dealing with the question of slavery? They and their ancestors before them had dealt with it over and over again, and yet the Amendment sought to declare that they were wanting in knowledge, prudence, and courage, and must resign to a Royal Commission a duty which they ought themselves to perform. If that were so, they were, he could not help thinking, very unworthy descendants of those whom they had succeeded. They might, however, that evening pronounce against the capacity of the Government or against the competence of the House of Commons. But there was one thing he ventured to say they could not do, and that was to deprive the minority who sat on the opposite side of the House of the privilege of exercising their rights and declaring their principles. If the Government did not know their own minds on the question, the Opposition knew theirs; if the Government had no policy, the Opposition had; and their principles were contained in the Resolution of his hon. Friend the Member for Bedford. His hon. Friend bore an honoured name, and he would pay him no higher tribute of praise than to say that he was worthy of that name. He had placed on the Journals of the House a Resolution which, whatever might be its fate that evening, would live. It might be defeated by a dilatory Amendment; but that Amendment could not destroy it. It would still remain, and would in the end prevail, because it expressed the determined resolve and the enlightened judgment of the English nation.


said, that if it were for the advantage of the slave and the amelioration of his hateful condition that the question before the House should be decided in this great country amid agitation and excitement, and without due deliberation, the speech of his hon. and learned Friend who had just sat down and the line of debate from beginning to end was admirably conducive to that result. A Circular had been issued by the Government, which had afterwards been frankly and readily withdrawn. That Circular had been succeeded by another, which it was admitted contained concessions which exceeded in the favour of the slave any similar State Paper which had been issued by previous Governments. But Her Majesty's Ministers had not stopped there. They believed they had given instructions which were in consonance with the municipal law of England and with the International Law of the world. The Circular did not violate any Treaty obligations; but in order that the noble and generous feeling which had been evoked in this country should have full play, and that it might be seen whether any improvement in the condition of those who were now slaves could be effected, they further proposed the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the subject. The duties of that Commission had, he might add, been intrusted to men than whom better could not be selected—among them a noble Duke, who was honoured and respected for his independence; and a Chief Justice, of whom he would only say that he had before now on a great occasion had the honour of England as well as the interpretation of International Law committed to his charge, and he had proved himself worthy of the confidence which had been reposed in him by the country. The other Members of the Commission were also men of eminence, and when the Government proposed that they should investigate the whole question, they were taunted by persons who themselves had belonged to an Administration which issued Circulars similar to those of which complaint was now made. But the true state of the case was that a mistake had been committed in issuing the first Circular, and that a wonderful opportunity of making political capital had thus been afforded to frozen-out politicians. At a period when the Party opposite were in hopeless and apparently endless exile, there came an angel to them one morning in the shape of this first Slave Circular. He need not describe with what promptitude, skill, and eloquence the occasion was instantly seized. His hon. and learned Friend the late Attorney General (Sir Henry James)—than whom there was no more alert, astute, and, he might add, cautious politician—rushed down to his constituents, and having denounced that part of the first Circular which dealt with taking slaves on board Her Majesty's ships in territorial waters, said—" This is done by the Conservative Party." The substance of his hon. and learned Friend's accusation was that his Party had never dishonoured the country's love of liberty as this retrograde and top-boots Party had. Well, this retrograde Party took counsel together and withdrew the Circular which had given the opportunity to the Party opposite. That proceeding was rather disappointing to them, and when it was found that this business was to be taken altogether out of the arena of popular excitement by the nomination of a Royal Commission, by whom the subject could be calmly considered and studied, there was among the ranks of the Opposition considerable lamentation. Still they were equal to the occasion, for on the very day on which Her Majesty's Gracious Speech was delivered, a Motion skilfully, and he would add—if the expression were not un-Parliamentary—craftily drawn, was placed on the Notice Paper of this House. In principle it hardly differed in the smallest degree from the terms or challenged the law of the second Circular, but there was a wonderful display in its language. He felt the greatest diffidence in venturing to follow his hon. and learned Friend who had just sat down in his disquisition on extra-territoriality; but it was necessary that he should do so for a few moments in order to remove the impression which had been left upon the House that by the Circular now in existence and by the later policy of Her Majesty's Government grave doubts were thrown on the immunity of British ships in foreign waters. The greater part of his hon. and learned Friend's speech on the legal branch of the subject was devoted to a development of this question:—" Are you bound to surrender a slave?" though after the hon. and learned Gentleman had gone on for some time he admitted that there was nothing whatever about the surrender of a slave in the present Circular; and he then called attention to some terms of that Circular in which captains and commanders of Her Majesty's ships of war were directed not only not to surrender, but that they were not to entertain any demand for surrender. His hon. and learned Friend next asked whether we maintained the immunity of British ships of war. The fact was that that immunity was maintained in the most absolute manner. Let him now call attention to another expression which was very likely to mislead. His hon. and learned Friend said we must either violate the law of the place or we must enforce it, and he asked whether it could be said we should violate the law of the place if we took on board a drowning man. In no respect could that be a violation of the law of the place; but if we saved the man and then sailed away with him, that would be a very different thing, if by the law of the place he was regarded as the property of his master. For all the purposes of maintaining and enforcing the discipline of our ships and for all purposes connected with our country, such as the protection of Her Majesty's subjects, he contended that our ex-territoriality and our immunity from local law was clearly asserted and fully maintained by the second Circular. But it was a different thing when we came to those things which we were to do or to abstain from doing in regard to a foreign State, for the ex-territoriality was the consequence, and not the cause, of the immunity. The commander of a ship who took advantage of the ex-territoriality was bound in return to have consideration for the institutions of the country. There might be no process of the local law whereby this obligation on the part of a commander of a foreign ship of war could be enforced, yet by the Commerce of Nations he was bound conscientiously to observe it; for this was, if he might use the expression, the equity of International Law on the subject. He must repeat that there was nothing in this second Circular that called on a captain or commander of a British ship of war to enforce the local law of slavery. There was in it nothing of the kind. The commander was called upon not to violate the law of the place; but this was a totally different thing from actively enforcing it. His hon. and learned Friend announced that he had discovered the means of extricating the Government from their difficulties. He said that we had a right to make any conditions we pleased before going into a foreign port, and if they did not choose to admit us we were free. That was, of course, quite true; but how were we to give notice of these conditions according to his hon. and learned Friend? It was by passing a Resolution of the House of Commons and communicating it to foreign Governments. This was certainly a most astounding process. They had all heard of quasi instruments of different kinds; but a quasi treaty such as this, made by a mere Resolution of the House of Commons was a suggestion seldom before heard of. The proposal could hardly be seriously intended; it was a means of escaping from the rather difficult position in which his hon. and learned Friend found himself. But passing away from the law of the case and dealing with the subject generally, it was obvious that policy must be considered as well as the legal bearings of the case. He had heard with great pleasure, as every one must have heard, his hon. and learned Friend dilate so eloquently upon the course which England would wish to pursue on this subject. For his part, he should rejoice if any better plan could be found for dealing with slavery than that which for many years had been adopted by this country. When, however, his hon. and learned Friend taunted the Government with not having produced at once a brand-new scheme upon this subject, he should remember that the present Government had not been in power as frequently and as long as their predecessors. It would have been well, therefore, to concede a little time and forbearance. It should be borne in mind that the policy now adopted towards these semi-barbarous States was one of gradual amelioration. We endeavoured to make friends of these peoples, and by observing carefully all the obligations of international amity, to make our example and influence felt among them, that we might obtain Treaties and secure advantages for the slaves. With several countries we had succeeded in making Treaties whereby no slaves were to be introduced into the country after a certain period. This was what was meant when it was said that a slave country was on the road to freedom. But if these friendly relations were broken off, and an attitude of stern repudiation of slavery was adopted towards these countries, we might sacrifice great material advantages for the indulgence of what might then turn out to be little more than a selfish boast. How many slaves could be emancipated by such a policy? How many slaves in a year should we succeed in emancipating? A few, perhaps, on the coast; but what would become of those in the interior, where our ships could not reach? In vast tracts of country in Africa slavery luxuriated. It had long been the policy of England gradually to trench upon its domains, to beat it back inch by inch, and keep this distress and crime from the people; and while, on the one hand, he was proud to have witnessed the generous outburst of feeling on this subject, it was important that this feeling should not be allowed to run into excess, and should be wisely regulated. The days were gone by when it was necessary to raise a storm of indignation on the subject of slavery. All parties united absolutely as one upon this subject. Their object was to ameliorate as best they could the present position of the slave and ultimately to eradicate the crime altogether. But the means of doing so necessarily required the most careful consideration. He therefore submitted to the House that the appointment of the Commission, which was the real question upon which they would divide, was a wise step, not only because it was likely to produce trustworthy information, but because the results of its labours would be accepted with entire confidence by the country. He trusted that these results would afford the foundation of perhaps a more perfect scheme for dealing with the crime and the curse of slavery than any system which had up to the present time been arrived at.


I congratulate the hon. and learned Member who has just sat down upon the temper and moderation with which he terminated his speech; and in one of his concluding sentences I thought I heard an indication that perhaps, whatever may be the result of the divisions upon the Resolution, this debate has not been without effect—that the Motion of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) will be accepted, and that, at all events, the second Circular will be withdrawn until the termination of the labours of the Commission. In the somewhat passionate exordium of the hon. and learned Gentleman, however, he was somewhat bolder than any speakers who preceded him upon that side of the House. We have heard a good deal of recrimination. We have heard some unpleasant truths. We, on this side of the House, have been called hard names during the debate. As far as I can gather, the burden of the speeches made has been—" Whatever we have done, we are not worse than you." But it was reserved for the hon. and learned Gentleman to claim that the present Government has done more to benefit fugitive slaves than any Government which preceded it. If the fugitive slave was under preceding Governments suffering from harsh and oppressive enactments, as the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just spoken would lead us to suppose, I can only say that such preceding Governments have, somehow or other, been singularly unsuccessful in bringing that fact to the knowledge of their subordinate officers. I take up the Papers which have been presented to Parliament in reference to the subject, and I find it stated, in almost the first despatch, that on the 17th of July, 1871, Colonel Pelly sought instructions from the Government of Bombay for his guidance in such cases. In their reply, dated November 29, 1871, the Government of Bombay quoted the opinion of the Honourable the Advocate General, to the following effect:— The commander of a British ship of war is not bound to receive fugitive slaves on hoard his vessel, yet if he does receive them they become free. And the Commanders of British men-of-war would not only be authorized in refusing to surrender a slave who had found refuge on board his vessel, but would incur very serious legal responsibilities if he in any way attempted to coerce that slave to return to his master. I will not trouble the House by referring further to the Papers, but will simply remark that whenever you find the opinion of a subordinate officer given upon this question, there is one universal opinion throughout the Service that the slave who has been received on board, under the protection of the British flag, becomes free, and that the captain of the vessel is not bound to surrender him. How will the House reconcile that with the assertions which have been so freely made by the hon. and learned Gentleman who has last addressed it? I perfectly admit that decisions—perhaps more than one—upon isolated cases have been given which I, in common with others who have spoken on this side of the House, deeply regret; but I do not think it is possible to contend that the regulations of preceding Governments have been consistently in that direction; or, if they had, I cannot conceive how it would have been possible for their subordinates to have entertained so universal and exactly contrary an opinion. The discussion to-night has, as was not unnatural, been confined, to a great extent, to Members of the legal profession, for it has turned mainly upon points of International Law. I do not myself intend to go into that question; but I shall state as briefly as I can what seems to me to be the real question upon which the House will have to decide. We are going to decide whether the Motion which has been submitted by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford adequately expresses the sense of the House and the country upon the subject of the reception and retention of fugitive slaves; and whether, if that is so, the Resolution contains anything which is inconsistent with our international obligations. In the next place, we shall have to decide whether, if that be so, the Circular recently issued by the Government, or any previous instructions issued by any preceding Government, conflicts with principles so asserted by the House. And we shall have further to decide whether the recent Circular, even in parts where the doctrine it lays down is sound, does not invidiously and unnecessarily restrict the discretion of our officers in regard to the reception of fugitive slaves. The Motion of my hon. Friend was not aimed exclusively at the Circular of the Government, but it was aimed—and the terms of it are distinct—at instructions which have been issued also by preceding Governments. The speech in which the Motion was laid before the House was conceived in the same spirit. My hon. Friend said he deeply regretted that his Motion would affect not only the Circular of the present Government, but instructions which had been given by a Government to which he had given his support. He imputed no blame to the Government, but simply asked the House to assent to a certain declaration of policy which should become the guide of our naval commanders in all parts of the world in relation to our dealings with fugitive slaves. Is there anything, either in Treaties or in the obligations of International Law, which conflicts with the principle which my hon. Friend asked the House to assent to? If there is one thing which has been distinctly proved in the course of these debates, it is that there is no such conflicting Treaty. I ask, Is there any international obligation resting upon a general principle of law which militates against the principle of my hon. Friend's Motion? I believe there is no such obligation. Attempts have been made to lead us away from the question submitted to us to a much wider and very different issue. The question the House should remember is, not whether there exists the right on the part of the slave to make his way upon the deck of an English man-of-war and there claim his freedom, but, on the contrary, whether there exists on the part of the owner, or any one on his behalf, a right to make his way on board that vessel and there claim to have the slave restored to slavery. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War contended the other night that to maintain that there was nothing in the Circular which was contrary to law was all he had to do. Well, there may be nothing contrary to law in it, that was admitted; but I maintain that that is not enough for the Government. What the Government have to do is to show that there is nothing in it in excess of what is required of us by our international obligations, and that it is that, as it appears to me, the Government have failed to do. Sir, the first Circular has been disowned by almost every Gentleman who has addressed the House. The First Lord of the Treasury said the other night that it has been condoned by the country. Whether it will be so completely condoned by the country after the speech of the Attorney General and the Secretary for War, we shall presently, perhaps, find out. But whether the first Circular is condoned or not, this observation occurs to me—that when we find any Member of the Government, or any hon. Gentleman on that side of the House defending the second Circular, we find them getting into a line of argument which would cover the first Circular itself. The Attorney General, defending his own work the other night, completely set up and defended the first Circular, and maintained that it was in accordance with the principle of International Law; and although the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War said he was not here to defend the first Circular it occurs to me that his argument also went far to defend that Circular. When the right hon. Gentleman in eloquent phrase appealed to the justice of England, which he said ought to be as great as her mercy, what did the right hon. Gentleman mean by justice except this—that when the slave owner demanded the restoration of a slave who had been received on board of one of our men-of-war he made a just demand? [Mr. GATHORNE HARDY: What I said was "honour and truth."] Well, I was under the impression that the words of the right hon. Gentleman were that great as is the mercy of England her justice ought to be still greater—namely, that in justice she was bound to yield to the demand for the restoration of a slave to slavery. The right hon. Gentleman says he used the words "honour and truth," not "justice and mercy;" and if he considers that it would be consistent with honour and truth to deliver up a slave on the demand of his owner, I can make him a present of the distinction. But, Sir, the Government does not go the length of the whole principle of surrender. If justice, or rather honour and truth, demanded such surrender, why did the second Circular distinctly order the commanders of our ships not to entertain any demand for the surrender of slaves? International Law either requires that upon the demand of the owner the slave should be surrendered, or, as I understood the assertion, justice prefers that the slave should be surrendered; but the Circular distinctly instructs our naval officers not to surrender the slave, at the same time stating that they were not to allow the slave to remain on board—for what reason I feel myself at a loss to guess, if, indeed, justice did not require it. If you controvert the proposition of my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford, are you prepared to adopt the opposite opinion, and to say that, in the opinion of this House, when a slave is once admitted to the protection of the British flag he ought not to be treated as if he were free, but may be removed from or ordered to leave the ship on the ground of slavery? No, you are not prepared to consider him a slave on board one of Her Majesty's ships. You are halting between two opinions. You laid down in the first Circular what you were advised by your Law Officers was required of you by international obligations, and you found that the law as so stated was not acceptable to the people of this country. You have retracted to a certain extent the law so laid down in the first Circular, but you retain the policy of that Circular, and you order your commanders, if not to surrender the slaves, to do exactly the same thing; for they are not to be allowed to remain on board ship. It has been frequently said—and I have no hesitation in repeating it—that we have not sought to make this a Party question. I do not know what precautions we have omitted to remove this question from the arena of Party. The Resolution is not aimed at one Circular only or at any one set of instructions. We condemn all instructions, by whatever Government they may have been issued, which infringe the principles we ask the House to adopt. But when we are told by the hon. Member for Tamworth (Mr. Hanbury) that the present Government were hampered or fettered by the decision of its predecessors, and when we are told by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hardy), in referring to the Act of 1873, that he regrets that he and his Friends did not do their duty in watching the passing of that Act, let me ask the right hon. Gentleman, who will follow me, whether when the Government were preparing the first Circular they were even aware of the precedent of 1871, or whether it has not been hunted up since the withdrawal of that Circular, in order to furnish the Government with an excuse? And let me also ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, when the Cabinet were deliberating on the second Circular, they found themselves much hampered by the Act of 1873? The right hon. Gentleman, who spoke the other night, need not reproach his conscience for his omission in allowing the passing of that Act, which is, I am informed, what it professed to be. It was simply a Consolidation Act, and the part to which he referred—merely the repealed clauses—had become utterly and absolutely obsolete. Therefore, if the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues found themselves hampered when they were preparing the second Circular by the provisions of the Act of 1873, let them take it in hand and alter it to what it ought to be. We have been told that the first Circular has been condoned. Now, I will ask whether—after all the recriminations and accusations which have been hurled at the late Government, and the frank admission of error that has been made from these benches—the despatch of Lord Clarendon in 1871 has not been condoned also. I will ask whether the country would desire, upon the authority of one or two isolated decisions, given in individual cases, and partly mixed up with considerations of an extraneous character to fix the stigma of pro-slavery tendencies upon the reputation of a Statesman like Lord Clarendon? I will ask whether the House and the country would bear more hardly upon the isolated decisions of Lord Clarendon, who never had the opportunity of explaining or defending them, than upon the deliberate action of a Cabinet warned by the almost unanimous voice of a whole people that they were treading upon dangerous ground? Much has been said about the secrecy of the instructions of the late Government. I deny that there was any secrecy. The fact is, that no instructions were ever issued by the late Government; all they did was through the Foreign Office, which gave its decisions on isolated cases upon the facts submitted to it. There is not the slightest excuse for saying that the Circular alluded to, which never was issued by the late Government, was a secret one. A despatch of Lord Clarendon was sent to the Commodore on the station, and he, on his own authority, translated it into what are called Station Orders; but there was no secrecy; on the contrary, the decisions of the Government, of which so much has been made, were laid on the Table of the House, and the House of Commons and the country, in my opinion, became, in a certain degree, a party to those decisions which had been found so much fault with. The Slave Trade Papers, presented in 1871, contained one of the very despatches of Lord Clarendon to which so much allusion has been made, and in which the passage occurs that commanders are not justified where slavery is legal in receiving fugitive slaves on board their vessels, or in carrying them away in opposition to the will of the local authorities. That despatch was laid on the Table of the House, and it would have been open to any hon. Member who rejected that doctrine to have called Lord Clarendon to account for it. I heard something about a humiliating despatch written by Lord Clarendon to the Portuguese Minister, and I find that despatch at length in the Slave Trade Papers. What, then, becomes of the charge that the proceedings of the late Government were secret, while those of the present Government have been open? If the Government insist on making this a Party question, I am not unwilling to accept the issue. I am willing—and I think those on this side of the House are willing—to bear whatever responsibility may justly fall upon us as to those decisions of Lord Clarendon. At the same time, we must recollect, if we are to bear the responsibility of those decisions, you who sit on that side of the House will have to bear the responsibility of your two Slave Circulars, and for the vote you are going to give.


Mr. Speaker, I feel that, from an abstract point of view, few things are more disagreeable, and certainly none are more difficult, than to codify International Law respecting fugitive slaves in territorial waters. It may be said—" Then, if that be your opinion, why have you attempted it?" My answer is, we had no alternative; we were called upon to do it by those to whom we were peculiarly responsible. The Viceroy of India in Council made a direct request to the Government of Her Majesty that we should send him direct instructions upon that very subject. The Viceroy of India in Council forwarded to us a correspondence of the Council with our Resident in the Persian Gulf, making the same request to his Excellency. He forwarded also to us provisional instructions which the Viceroy in Council had found it necessary to draw up for the Government and the regulation of the Resident in the Persian Gulf; and we found that these provisional orders were altogether untenable. Under these circumstances, it was absolutely necessary that the Government should take some steps. They had to consider, for their guidance, first, the position of the question as to the treatment of fugitive slaves in territorial waters. They had to consider the state of the question as it had been treated by their Predecessors in office. I will not go into any old cases or ambiguous instances. I will confine myself in this part of the case to the instances which the noble Lord has just referred to, and which occurred under the control of Lord Clarendon—the cases of the Daphne, the Dryad, and the Nymph. It appears in all these cases that slaves have been received in territorial waters by commanders of Her Majesty's ships, and taken out of the territorial waters. Remonstrances were made by the Powers to whom those territorial waters belonged—Portugal and Madagascar—and in all these cases Lord Clarendon condemned the commanders for what they had done. More than this, Lord Clarendon required the Admiralty to try one of those commanders of Her Majesty's ships—Captain Sulivan—and there was a Court of Inquiry on his conduct, and he was censured. In the case of the Daphne, Lord Clarendon communicated the decision to the Portuguese Government, and afterwards an order was circulated on the Eastern Station embodying the views of Lord Clarendon. Now I have quoted from documents before us, I believe with accuracy, what took place, but I do not blame Lord Clarendon. Lord Clarendon was a most eminent man. He had assisted Lord Palmerston for years in building up a great diplomatic fabric of Treaties, the object of which was to insure the abolition of the slave trade; and the condition on which those Treaties were obtained was that the state of domestic slavery in the countries which granted those Treaties would be respected. Therefore, it is not surprising that Lord Clarendon, who had a great object with Lord Palmerston in view—an object shared by all statesmen in this House, on both sides, and the performance and development of which fell peculiarly to those eminent men—it is not surprising that Lord Clarendon, knowing with what difficulty these abolition Treaties had been obtained, should vigilantly watch over the fulfilment of the conditions by which their ends had been accomplished. And I, therefore, do not blame in any way Lord Clarendon for the course which he pursued, which I believe was perfectly consistent and very advantageous to the great cause in which this country was so deeply interested. But what I do blame is the conduct of those who were the political followers, and some of them the Colleagues, of Lord Clarendon, who can come out now and speak of him in the manner in which he has been spoken of in this debate. Now, the first person who introduced the name of Lord Clarendon in this de-bate was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), who made a very peculiar speech. Considering all that had occurred in the Recess, it was not to be wondered at that he should take an early part in the debate; and it certainly was not very consistent with the position he had occupied in the country during the Recess. He was the first to introduce the name of Lord Clarendon. The right hon. Gentleman felt the great difficulty of pursuing the course he had adopted, and he at once met that difficulty. What was the description of the conduct of Lord Clarendon in these matters? It would appear from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that Lord Clarendon, in some inadvertent moment, without thought, with great recklessness and rashness, suffering, as the right hon. Gentleman, I think, charitably intimated, perhaps from indisposition, had written what he called a note. We hear despatches now called "letters," and now a despatch is not even a "letter," but becomes a "note;" and an inadvertency of this kind by the late Lord Clarendon is the cause of all this confusion, and the sole foundation for this charge against the Liberal Party—namely, that they pursued exactly the same policy as their successors.


Pardon me, for interrupting you, but I made no allusion to any possible indisposition of Lord Clarendon. I believe I spoke of a "letter" instead of a "note," and distinctly stated that I believed he had written a letter—a despatch contrary to what he had written in 1856; for he was so absorbed in the endeavour to put down the slave trade, that he forgot for the time the principle he had formerly advocated with regard to fugitive slaves.


Well, I do not think the statement of the' right hon. Gentleman has materially changed the view I was conveying to the House. The right hon. Gentleman has put it to the House that there was an inadvertent letter by Lord Clarendon expressing opinions of which he could not approve, and similar to those now followed by Her Majesty's Government. Who would have supposed from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that, instead of a single letter, this despatch was part of a serious diplomatic Correspondence—part of a series of important diplomatic incidents? Who would have supposed that not merely that commanders of Her Majesty's ships were subject to Courts of Inquiry; but communications were held with European Courts, apologies even made to European Courts, and letters received from European Courts to say they were satisfied with those apologies. Who would have supposed from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman that events of this kind had occurred? And yet we all know, from documents before us, that such are the facts of the case. At this hour and at this time of the debate I will not venture to read any extracts to the House; but they will see in pages 54 and 55 of the proceedings some of the final despatches, and they will perceive that they cover a considerable period of time. Yet Lord Clarendon was mentioned to the House as a person who wrote a letter without communicating it to his Colleagues, and that it was the indiscretion of an individual. But I find, in looking into those Papers, Lord Clarendon writing on the 31st of May, 1870, to the Portuguese Minister— I trust that His Most Faithful Majesty's Government will agree with that of Her Majesty that the circumstances of the case are sufficiently met by the disapproval of Captain Sulivan's conduct, which has been made known to that officer; and I beg leave to add that instructions have been recently issued to the Commanders of Her Majesty's cruizers on the East Coast of Africa regarding the reception of negroes on board their ships which will, it is hoped, prevent the recurrence of the proceedings of which your Government have complained. I doubt not he was justified in writing that, and he received from the Portuguese Minister in London a letter saying— In compliance with your Excellency's request I shall not fail to make known to my Government the contents of your Excellency's letter, and I have no doubt they will be considered as a now proof of the friendly feelings towards Portugal of Her Britannic Majesty's Government. That is the Correspondence referred to by the right hon. Member for Bradford as a casual letter written without the knowledge of his Colleagues. Unfortunately, the country lost the services of Lord Clarendon; and, though I was not a follower of that noble Lord, every Gentleman who knew that distinguished man felt that he was a great ornament to the public life of England. But what follows? An order was prepared in 1871 for the East Indies Station—[Mr. W. E. FORSTER: NO.] NO! I have it here—embodying this instruction— Art. 147.—Her Majesty's Minister for Foreign Affairs has decided that slaves coming on board ships of-war within the territorial jurisdiction of the country from which they escape, that is to say, within three miles of the shore, should be returned to the owners. [An hon. MEMBER: Read on.] I am reading on, and I do not know why the hon. Gentleman should object. I must vindicate the Friend whom you have deserted, and the ornament of your Party whom you have left in the lurch. I must call your attention particularly to this East Indies Station Order of 1871, because it embodies in it all the instructions and sentiments of Lord Clarendon in his despatches on this subject. But Lord Clarendon, according to the right hon. Member for Bradford, acted without communicating with his Colleagues. Now I think I have proof that one at least of Lord Clarendon's Colleagues—and he no mean Colleague—was aware of what he was doing. The Lord President of the Council became Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs—that distinguished nobleman who, we are now told, is the Leader of the Liberal Party—and it is he who sends these instructions to the East Indies Station. It is Lord Granville who sends this Article 147, announcing that Her Majesty's Minister for Foreign Affairs has decided that slaves coming on board ships of-war within the territorial jurisdiction of the country from which they escape, that is to say, within throe miles from the shore, should be returned to the owners. Look at this short despatch—I will not venture to call it a letter— Earl Granville to Sir C. Murray.—I transmit to you for your information copies of a correspondence, respecting the result of an inquiry into certain proceedings complained of by the Portuguese Government, of Captain Sulivan, of Her Majesty's ship "Daphne," off the coast of Mozambique. The particulars of this case will be found at pages 98 to 101 of Class B of the Slave Trade Papers laid before Parliament last Session. I am, &c., GRANVILLE. [An hon. MEMBER: That has nothing to do with it.] It is the whole business. It shows that Lord Granville sent the whole of the correspondence on the subject of Captain Sulivan, of the Daphne, to our Minister at Lisbon, without a single syllable of disapprobation. He sent it freely, with his sanction and approval. Well, I think I have at last vindicated Lord Clarendon, who, we have been told, never communicated with his Colleagues. But the note was taken up by another distinguished Member of the late Government—the hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James). He followed the cry; the right hon. Member for Bradford gave the note, that Lord Clarendon acted without any communication with his Colleagues. The note is caught up by the hon. and learned Member for Taunton, who states that Lord Clarendon's despatches were kept secret from the House of Commons, who were free from the knowledge of any wickedness of that kind. But the noble Lord who has just addressed the House has fully vindicated the character of Lord Clarendon in this matter, because he has referred to the Papers, which I myself was prepared to quote if necessary, relating to the slave question, which were laid upon the Table of this House in 1871, in which those despatches may be found. What, therefore, becomes of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman and of the hon. and learned Member—first of all, that Lord Clarendon acted without communicating with his Colleagues; and, secondly, according to the hon. and learned Member, that he so acted without the House of Commons having the slightest inkling of what he was doing. And yet these are the two Gentlemen who have formed the opinion of the country during the Recess. These are the two Gentlemen who have been parading England and inveighing against the retrograde policy of the horrible Tory Party—the horrible Tory party—who certainly have not yet written any despatches to the effect that they have decided that slaves coming on board our ships when within the territorial jurisdiction of a slave-holding country shall be returned to their owners. [Mr. WHITWORTH: The first Circular does so.] The remark of the hon. Member reminds me of the question of the noble Lord—and I always like to answer his questions—whether, when the first Circular was drawn up, I was aware of the Act of 1873? I may say that I had nothing to do with the drawing up of the first Circular. I am, of course, officially responsible for it, and if it had not been withdrawn and a Motion had been made in this House in reference to it, I should have been ready to take the consequences of my misfortune—I will not say my fault. But the truth is that I never heard of the first Circular until it was denounced with the glowing eloquence of the right hon. Member for Bradford, and his companion in rhetoric, the hon. and learned Member for Taunton. I think I have shown, without troubling the House too much on this head, that the opinions expressed in the first and second Circulars are not novelties, and that they are mere continuations of the policy which was carried out by the Government of this country, and that they originated in no mean ideas or motives. It is all very well for us, especially under the present circumstances, to feel convenient indignation, and while painting almost with the brush that portrayed the horrors of slavery in the time of Pitt, to forget all that has occurred in the interval. It is very well to criticize Lord Palmerston and Lord Clarendon, or those who are sitting on this side of the House, but we must remember that the abolition of the slave trade was not carried merely by tumultuous acclamations. It was the work of immense labour. During the active life of Lord Palmerston, who was always at work, and who was more capable, perhaps, of work than any English Minister of our time, if there was any one subject to which he devoted his energy it was to the abolition of slavery. At that he worked for years when, so far as the public were concerned, the question was dead and uninteresting; but there was no subject that more entirely engrossed the attention of that remarkable man. The result of this was that there was a series of Treaties; but there was not a Treaty obtained that was not the result of negotiations by statesmen; and to induce the Powers, some of them great, some of them petty chieftains, to enter into these Treaties, various considerations were held out, but in all there was this general condition—that their territorial waters should be respected, and that the institution of domestic slavery should not be interfered with. Therefore, those who would have interfered rashly with the institution of domestic slavery would have prevented Lord Palmerston from availing himself of those very Treaties by which the abolition of slavery was secured. I venture to refer to this matter because, from the statements made on the other side of the House, one would be inclined to think that nothing had ever been done towards the abolition of slavery since the days of Wilberforce, until the right hon. Member for Bradford and the hon. and learned Member for Taunton made their speeches. It may be said—"It is all very well; but what are these but the despatches of Ministers and the regulations of offices? We have a certain object to attain; we do not care for these despatches, or for these regulations and these Circulars. We are resolved to come to a decision that in the territorial waters of a State a slave shall be free if he finds himself, somehow or other, in an English ship. We do not care in the least for any other object, and we will make our law stronger than any other influence." Well, can we do that? Is that the way to set about the business if you want to succeed? I will not remind you—you have been reminded before, if not in this debate on other occasions—that a vote of the House of Commons cannot change the Law of Nations; but it is very well to remember it, because on that saying much depends. But without entering into that subject which, however, interesting, must at this time have acquired more interest from the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt), I would remind you of what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War reminded you on Tuesday, that there was one thing certainly which a Resolution of the House of Commons cannot do—it cannot alter the laws of this country. You may say what you like about the law of 1873; but not a single observation has been made upon it since it was first noticed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War that touches in the least the point and pith of the inference that he drew from it. What was the answer given to me by the noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington) in reference to this Act? He said it was a Consolidation Act. I do not care whether it is a Consolidation Act or an Act of recent invention. All I know is that under the Act of 1873 you can institute Vice Admiralty Courts and you can restore and surrender slaves. That is the law; and you must get rid of that law before you can effect a change on this subject by a vote of the House of Commons. I understand that a very passionate appeal was made to me in my absence, and I very much regret I did not hear it, by the hon. and learned Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Waddy). He adjured me to be equal to the situation, and said the effect of this vote would be to make a new law. He acquitted past and present Ministers and all public men of all blame arising from the present state of affairs in connection with slavery, but he said what the House of Commons had to do to-night was to carry a new law. Well, but that is a thing which the House of Commons cannot do, and the hon. and learned Gentleman, before he gives that fervid advice, should remember that we cannot affect International Law and municipal law by a mere vote of the House of Commons. I heard with great pleasure that this was not a Party question, and from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford, who I believe is a judge of that subject. I was prepared for that statement by the ingenious and ingenuous speech—for it deserves both epithets—by which this subject was introduced by the hon. Member for Bedford. He said "the House will observe that my Resolution does not merely include the Circulars of the Government; I am entirely impartial. I have gone back and included all the Circulars and instructions. It is equally condemnatory of those on my own side. What I would do would be to appeal to independent Members, first on my own side, to consider that this is not a Party question, and ask them for their votes, and then I would also make an appeal to independent Members on the other side, and ask them for their votes." Thus in a manner that is ingenious and ingenuous, not being a Party question, I think we may be able to put Her Majesty's Ministers in a minority. This is still a young Parliament, and there may be some young birds in it. I am not to be caught exactly in that way. It is rather a sorry sight in the House of Commons to find a great Party ready to cast away with scorn the reputations of the greatest men they have ever produced in our times, merely to catch a vote and to put opponents in a minority. The fame of Lord Palmerston, the reputation of Lord Clarendon—statesmen to whom Gentlemen on the opposite benches owe their position and prestige in the country—these are to be entirely cast away. These distinguished persons are to be treated as mere vile bodies in order that a very petty and hypocritical triumph may be gained. I have sometimes succeeded in divisions; perhaps oftener failed; but I never, when I struck at my foe, pretended that it was not a Party question; and I cannot believe that such dastardly schemes can ever succeed in a House composed of English Gentlemen. ["Oh!"] I do not apply that expression to any one Gentleman in particular. I apply it to schemes which would obtain a Party success by sacrificing the reputation of your distinguished Predecessors. If the word I have used be considered too strong I will recall it. But that, in my mind, is not the way in which the House should come to a decision. We have proposed to you what this debate proves, I think, the country ought to have recourse to. If there is anything proved by this debate more than another by the speeches which have been delivered, by the references which have been made to the opinions of eminent men on both sides—men on that (the Opposition) side who have always been held up as models and examples, and who, we are now told, were entirely in the wrong in their views and in their practice—if anything is demonstrated more than another by this debate it is the wisdom and expediency of submitting this question to the investigation and the judgment of a Royal Commission. That Royal Commission has wide powers. I know not of a Commission that ever had wider. It is not merely to ascertain what are our engagements under Treaty. That might be attained without a Royal Commission. It is not even to ascertain the principles of public law which are involved in these discussions. Although the Report of such a Commission would be received with great authority, such consequences might be realized without it. But they are permitted under the Commission which has been issued to suggest any changes that might bring about a result on some points which it might be desirable and in some respects so satisfactory to secure. They are to inquire whether by negotiation these results may not be obtained. It is impossible to deny that a state of affairs so strange as the relations between free nations and a slave population cannot always depend on exactly the same principles and the same practice. They must change with the changing fortunes and accidents of the world, and there may be modifications and enlargements of principles and practice of which we may avail ourselves without danger; nay, with great advantage. I think that no one who has listened to this debate can for a moment pretend that we can come to any satisfactory conclusion at this moment on the points which have been raised. The hon. Gentleman who brings forward the Motion is struggling at the same time with public law and municipal law, and with no greater weapon, even if he succeeds, than a vote of the House of Commons. He himself must feel the weakness and the unsatisfactory nature of the position in which he has placed himself. I do not think he will succeed. I think the House will rally round us. I believe, notwithstanding all that has been said, that the calm opinion of the country approves the course we recommend; and I think that the vote which the House of Commons will give to night will be one satisfactory to the country and lead, I hope, to a satisfactory conclusion.


I am not disposed to give a silent vote on this question, and I intend to vote with the Government. I think, and I hope sincerely, that Her Majesty's Government will not be disconcerted by the attempt—the Party attempt—which has been made to throw odium on them. I know something—not much, but a little—[laughter]—hon. Members are welcome to their amusement; but I know a little with respect to the coast which is concerned more immediately in this matter of slavery. I have not gone up so far, I may say, as the North of Madagascar or Zanzibar, but I have gone some 2,000 miles along the eastern shore of South Africa; and from my observation I have discovered that on those shores there are about three parties living. There are the Kings of the country, the Chiefs of the country, and the people of the country. I always found that the people of the country were perfectly ready to grant to their superiors a certain degree of servitude, which is called in England slavery, but which is not so at all; in fact—if I may use the expression—I believe there is no such thing on earth as indigenous slavery. I thoroughly believe that if the White man never interfered the Black men would get on for thousands of years most admirably with their masters. [Interruption.] I know my excellent friends the Whigs will try to put me down to-night; but I can assure them they shall not do so. I am aware that I stand here at some disadvantage when I get up to speak after right hon. Gentlemen, and I would have risen before, but I really had not the opportunity. But whether I speak before, or whether I speak after, I will certainly claim my right. I shall speak in favour of Her Majesty's Government, and in favour of the poor slave; and I say most distinctly that until the poor slave was invaded by the White man he had nothing to complain of with respect to his master. Now I wish to ask the House this question with respect to officers commanding Her Majesty's ships on the East Coast of Africa—What are they to do when they are invaded by a number of fugitive slaves? Has any hon. Member got up on this side of the House to tell us what number of slaves are to get on board a frigate? Are they to be one, or are they to be 500? It is an important question; for if one man has a right to go on board, it is incontestably the right of 500 men in a similar position. What is the commander of a frigate—perhaps a small one—to do with those 500 men, who possibly had swum off from the shore to place themselves under the protection of the British flag? What is he to do with them? That is a difficult question to answer, I think; and I do not find that any attempt has been made to answer it on the part of my dear friends the Whigs. Of course, he will treat them to the best description of food, and possibly ply them well with dry champagne. Then, when they have been on board for a few days, he might perhaps be inclined to ask them whether they have any objection to work, and to that question the reply of the first he tried would probably be that given by Mickey Free— I never was given to work, It was not a plan of the Brady's; But I'd make a most elegant Turk, For I'm fond of tobacco and ladies. In addition to that, he will make a further inquiry—"Am I not a man and a brother, and are not you a Whig?" Who are the Gentlemen who bring forward this question with respect to slavery, and are so anxious to put a stop to slavery all over the world? Are they not the men who sat on the same side of the House with Lord John Russell when he forgot to detain by two hours the Alabama when she went out to plunder on the high seas? Did she not do so? For what purpose did she go? Let me ask this great House, did not that ship go out with dozens of others on the same errand? For what purpose did she do it? She did it for the purpose of crippling the power of that nation which determined at the first moment to put down that which these Gentlemen seem to detest—slavery. That is what was done with respect to that and kindred ships; and it was supported by those Gentlemen who sit on this side of the House, many of whom I dare say have made large fortunes not only by sending ships such as those to sea, but by sending others. Who are those Gentlemen who—[Interruption]—I demand to be heard. Who are those Gentlemen who sit on this side of the House, and who permitted me to go alone into the Lobby for taking the part of the veriest slave in this country—Sir Roger Doughty Tichborne?


rose to Order.


I think the hon. Member is travelling beyond the scope of the discussion. He must address himself to the question before the House.


I will bow to your decision, Sir. I certainly must say, Sir, that those Gentlemen on this side of the House who got up for the purpose of condemning slavery have a very poor case indeed to bring before this House. I regret exceedingly that you have obliged me to depart from that line of argument. With all due deference to you, Sir, I think I should be allowed to make use of it. However, I will only declare that the Government cannot possibly do their duty unless they give the strictest orders to the officers commanding every squadron, particularly on the East Coast of Africa, as to the mode in which they shall treat slaves on board their ships. It is absolutely necessary that that shall be done, and I hope Her Majesty's Government will do it.


I will detain the House with but one sentence. I hope the House will allow me to say, on behalf of my country—Ireland—that I trust my Colleagues will not go into the Lobby with my good Friend the last speaker, the last supporter of the Slave Circular.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 248; Noes 293: Majority 45.

Acland, Sir T. D. Corbett, J.
Adam, rt. hon. W. P. Cotes, C. C.
Allen, W. S. Cowan, J.
Amory, Sir J. H. Cowen, J.
Anderson, G. Cowper, hon. H. F.
Anstruther, Sir R. Crawford, J. S.
Antrobus, Sir E. Cross, J. K.
Backhouse, E. Crossley, J.
Balfour, Sir G. Davies, D.
Barclay, A. C. Davies, R.
Barclay, J. W. Dickson, T. A.
Bass, A. Dilke, Sir C. W.
Baxter, rt. hon. W. E. Dixon, G.
Bazley, Sir T. Dodds, J.
Beaumont, Major F. Dodson, rt. hon. J. G.
Beaumont, W. B. Downing, M'C.
Bell, I. L. Duff, M. E. G.
Biddulph, M. Duff, R. W.
Biggar, J. G. Dunbar, J.
Blake, T. Dundas, J. C.
Bolckow, H. W. F. Earp, T.
Brady, J. Edwards, H.
Brassey, H. A. Egerton, Adm. hon. F.
Brassey, T. Ellice, E.
Briggs, W. E. Errington, G.
Bright, J. Esmonde, Sir J.
Bright, rt. hon. J. Evans, T. W.
Bristowe, S. B. Fawcett, H.
Brocklehurst, W. C. Fay, C. J.
Brogden, A. Ferguson, R.
Brooks, M. Fitzmaurice, Lord E.
Browne, G. E. Fitzwilliam, hon. C. W. W.
Bruce, rt. hon. Lord E.
Burt, T. Fletcher, I.
Butt, I. Foljambe, F. J. S.
Callan, P. Forster, Sir C.
Cameron, C. Forster, rt. hon. W. E.
Campbell-Bannerman, H. Forsyth, W.
Foster, W. H.
Carington, hn. Col. W. French, hon. C.
Carter, R. M. Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.
Cartwright, W. C. Gladstone, W. H.
Cave, T. Goldsmid, Sir F.
Cavendish, Lord F. C. Goldsmid, J.
Cavendish, Lord G. Goschen, rt. hon. G. J.
Chadwick, D. Gourley, E. T.
Chambers, Sir T. Gower, hon. E. F. L.
Cholmeley, Sir H. Grieve, J. J.
Clarke, J. C. Hankey, T.
Clifford, C. C. Harcourt, Sir W. V.
Clive, G. Harrison, C.
Cole, H. T. Harrison, J. F.
Colebrooke, Sir T. E. Hartington, Marq. of
Collins, E. Havelock, Sir H.
Colman, J. J. Hayter, A. D.
Henry, M. O'Keeffe, J.
Herbert, H. A. O'Reilly, M. W.
Herschell, F. O'Sullivan, W. H.
Hodgson, K. D. Palmer, C. M.
Holland, S. Parnell, C. S.
Holms, J. Pease, J. W.
Holms, W. Peel, A. W.
Hopwood, C. H. Pender, J.
Howard, hn. C. W. G. Pennington, F.
Ingram, W. J. Perkins, Sir F.
Jackson, Sir H. M. Philips, E. N.
James, Sir H. Playfair, rt. hon. L.
James, W. H. Potter, T. B.
Jenkins, D. J. Price, W. E.
Johnstone, Sir H. Ralli, P.
Kenealy, Dr. Ramsay, J.
Kensington, Lord Rashleigh, Sir C.
Kingscote, Colonel Rathbone, W.
Kinnaird, hon. A. F. Redmond, W. A.
Knatchbull-Hugessen, rt. hon. E. Reed, E. J.
Richard, H.
Laing, S. Robertson, H.
Lambert, N. G. Roebuck, J. A.
Laverton, A. Russell, Lord A.
Law, rt. hon. H. Rylands, P.
Lawrence, Sir J. C. St. Aubyn, Sir J.
Lawson, Sir W. Samuda, J. D'A.
Leatham, E. A. Samuelson, B.
Leeman, G. Seely, C.
Lefevre, G. J. S. Shaw, W.
Leith, J. F. Sheil, E.
Lloyd, M. Sheridan, H. B.
Locke, J. Sherlock, Mr. Serjeant
Lorne, Marquess of Sherriff, A. C.
Lowe, rt. hon. R. Simon, Mr. Serjeant
Lubbock, Sir J. Smith, E.
Lusk, Sir A. Smyth, R.
Macdonald, A. Stacpoole, W.
Macduff, Viscount Stafford, Marquess of
Mackintosh, C. F. Stansfeld, rt. hon. J.
M' Arthur, A. Stanton, A. J.
M'Arthur, W. Stevenson, J. C.
M'Kenna, Sir J. N. Stuart, Colonel
M'Lagan, P. Sullivan, A. M.
M'Laren, D. Swanston, A.
Maitland, J. Tavistock, Marquess of
Marjoribanks, Sir D. C. Taylor, D.
Marling, S. S. Taylor, P. A.
Martin, P. W. Temple, rt. hon. W. Cowper-
Martin, P.
Massey, rt. hon. W. N. Torrens, W. T. M'C.
Matheson, A. Tracy, hon. C. R. D. Hanbury-
Meldon, C. H.
Middleton, Sir A. E. Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.
Milbank, F. A. Vivian, H. H.
Monk, C. J. Waddy, S. D.
Montagu, rt. hn. Lord R. Walter, J.
Moore, A. Ward, M. F.
Morgan, G. O. Waterlow, Sir S. H.
Mundella, A. J. Watkin, Sir E. W.
Muntz, P. H. Weguelin, T. M.
Murphy, N. D. Whalley, G. H.
Nevill, C. W. Whitwell, J.
Noel, E. Whitworth, B.
Nolan, Captain Whitworth, W.
Norwood, C. M. Williams, W.
O'Brien, Sir P. Wilson, C.
O'Byrne, W. R. Wilson, Sir M.
O'Callaghan, hon. W. Yeaman, J.
O'Clery, K. Young, A. W.
O'Conor, D. M. TELLERS.
O'Conor Don, The Ashley, hon. A. E.
O'Donoghue, The Whitbread, S.
Adderley, rt. hn. Sir C. Dalrymple, C.
Agnew, R. V. Davenport, W. B.
Alexander, Colonel Deakin, J. H.
Allen, Major Denison, C. B.
Allsopp, C. Denison, W. E.
Allsopp, H. Dickson, Major A. G.
Anstruther, Sir W. Digby, E. H. T.
Assheton, R. Disraeli, rt. hon. B.
Astley, Sir J. D. Douglas, Sir G.
Bagge, Sir W. Dyott, Colonel R.
Bailey, Sir J. R. Eaton, H. W.
Baring, T. C. Edmonstone, Admiral Sir W.
Barne, F. St. J. N.
Barrington, Viscount Egerton, hon. A. F.
Barttelot, Sir W. B. Egerton, Sir P. G.
Bates, E. Egerton, hon. W.
Bateson, Sir T. Elliot, G. W.
Bathurst, A. A. Elphinstone, Sir J. D. H.
Beach, rt. hn. Sir M. H. Emlyn, Viscount
Beach, W. W. B. Estcourt, G. B.
Benett-Stanford, V. F. Ewing, A. O.
Bentinck, rt. hn. G. C. Fellowes, E.
Bentinck, G. W. P. Fielden, J.
Beresford, G. de la Poer Finch, G. H.
Beresford, Colonel M. Floyer, J.
Birley, H. Folkestone, Viscount
Blackburne, J. I. Forester, C. T. W.
Boord, T. W. Fraser, Sir W. A.
Bourke, hon. R. Freshfield, C. K.
Bourne, Colonel Gardner, R. Richard-son-
Bousfield, Major
Bowyer, Sir G. Garnier, J. C.
Bright, R. Gibson, E.
Brise, Colonel R. Gilpin, Sir R. T.
Broadley, W. H. H. Goddard, A. L.
Bruce, hon. T. Goldney, G.
Buckley, Sir E. Gordon, Sir A. H.
Bulwer, J. R. Gordon, rt. hon. E. S.
Burrell, Sir P. Gordon, W.
Buxton, Sir R. J. Gore, W. R. O.
Cameron, D. Gorst, J. E.
Campbell, C. Grantham, W.
Cawley, C. E. Greenall, Sir G.
Cecil, Lord E. H. B. G. Greene, E.
Chaine, J. Gregory, G. B.
Chaplin, Colonel E. Hall, A. W.
Chaplin, H. Halsey, T. F.
Chapman, J. Hamilton, Lord C. J.
Charley, W. T. Hamilton, I. T.
Christie, W. L. Hamilton, Lord G.
Churchill, Lord R. Hamilton, Marquess of
Clifton, T. H. Hamilton, hon. R. B.
Clive, hon. Col. G. W. Hamond, C. F.
Close, M. C. Hanbury, R. W.
Clowes, S. W. Hardcastle, E.
Cobbett, J. M. Hardy, rt. hon. G.
Cobbold, T. C. Hardy, J. S.
Cole, Col. hon. H. A. Harvey, Sir R. B.
Conolly, T. Hay, rt. hon. Sir J. C. D.
Coope, O. E. Heath, R.
Corbett, Colonel Hermon, E.
Cordes, T. Hervey, Lord F.
Corry, hon. H. W. L. Heygate, W. U.
Corry, J. P. Hick, J.
Cotton, rt. hn. W. J. R. Hildyard, T. B. T.
Crichton, Viscount Hinchingbrook, Visct.
Cross, rt. hon. R. A. Hogg, Sir J. M.
Cubitt, G. Holford, J. P. G.
Cuninghame, Sir W. Holker, Sir J.
Dalkeith, Earl of Holland, Sir H. T.
Holmesdale, Viscount Pemberton, E. L.
Holt, J. M. Pennant, hon. G.
Home, Captain Peploe, Major
Hood, hon. Captain A. W. A. N. Percy, Earl
Phipps, P.
Hope, A. J. B. B. Plunket, hon. D. R.
Hubbard, E. Blunkett, hon. R.
Hubbard, rt. hon. J. Polhill-Turner, Capt.
Hunt, rt. hon. G. W. Powell, W.
Isaac, S. Praed, C. T.
Jervis, Colonel Praed, H. B.
Johnson, J. G. Price, Captain
Johnston, W. Puleston, J. H.
Johnstone, H. Raikes, H. C.
Jolliffe, hon. S. Read, C. S.
Jones, J. Rendlesham, Lord
Kavanagh, A. MacM. Repton, G. W.
Kennard, Colonel Ridley, M. W.
Kennaway, Sir J. H. Ripley, H. W.
Knightley, Sir R. Ritchie, C. T.
Knowles, T. Rodwell, B. B. H.
Lacon, Sir E. H. K. Round, J.
Lawrence, Sir J. T. Russell, Sir C.
Learmonth, A. Ryder, G. R.
Lee, Major V. Sackville, S. G. S.
Legard, Sir C. Salt, T.
Legh, W. J. Sanderson, T. K.
Leigh, Lt.-Col. E. Sandon, Viscount
Leighton, S. Sclater-Booth, rt. hn. G.
Lennox, Lord H. G. Scott, Lord H.
Leslie, Sir J. Scott, M. D.
Lindsay, Col. R. L. Scourfield, Sir J. H.
Lloyd, S. Selwin-Ibbetson, Sir H. J.
Lloyd, T. E.
Lopes, H. C. Shirley, S. E.
Lopes, Sir M. Shute, General
Lowther, hon. W. Sidebottom, T. H.
Lowther, J. Simonds, W. B.
Macartney, J. W. E. Smith, A.
Mac Iver, D. Smith, F. C.
Majendie, L. A. Smith, S. G.
Makins, Colonel Smith, W. H.
Malcolm, J. W. Smollett, P. B.
Manners, rt. hn. Lord J. Somerset, Lord H. E. C.
March, Earl of Spinks, Mr. Serjeant
Marten, A. G. Stanhope, hon. E.
Merewether, C. G. Stanhope, W. T. W. S.
Mills, A. Stanley, hon. F.
Mills, Sir C. H. Starkey, L. R.
Monckton, F. Starkie, J. P. C.
Montgomerie, R. Steere, L.
Montgomery, Sir G. G. Stewart, M. J.
Moore, S. Storer, G.
Morgan, hon. F. Sykes, C.
Morris, G. Talbot, J. G.
Mowbray, rt. hon. J. R. Taylor, rt. hon. Col.
Mulholland, J. Tennant, R.
Naghten, Lt.-Col. Thornhill, T.
Neville-Grenville, R. Thwaites, D.
Newport, Viscount Thynne, Lord H. F.
Noel, rt, hon. G. J. Tollemache, hon. W. F.
North, Colonel Torr, J.
Northcote, rt. hon. Sir S. H. Tremayne, J.
Turnor, E.
O'Gorman, P. Twells, P.
O'Leary, W. Verner, E. W.
Onslow, D. Wait, W. K.
Paget, R. H. Walker, T. E.
Palk, Sir L. Wallace, Sir R.
Parker, Lt.-Col. W. Walpole, hon. F.
Pateshall, E. Walpole, rt. hon. S.
Peel, rt. hon. Sir R. Walsh, hon. A.
Pell, A. Watney, J.
Wellesley, Captain Wyndham, hon. P.
Wethered, T. Yarmouth, Earl of
Wheelhouse, W. S. T. Yorke, hon. E.
Whitelaw, A. Yorke, J. R.
Williams, Sir F. M.
Wilmot, Sir H. TELLERS.
Wolff, Sir H. D Dyke, Sir W. H.
Woodd, B. T. Winn, R.

Question proposed, That the words' in order to maintain most effectually the right of personal liberty, it is desirable to await further information from the Report of a Royal Commission, both as to the instructions from time to time issued to British naval officers, the international obligations of this Country, and the attitude of other States in regard to the treatment of domestic Slaves on board of national ships,'—(Mr. Henbury,)—be added,—instead thereof.


moved as an Amendment, to insert after the word "desirable," the words Provided that the Circular of the 5th day of December 1857 and the East Indies Station Order of 1871, on the subject of Fugitive Slaves, shall not continue in force. The hon. Gentleman said, the proposition embodied in this Amendment was a most important one, upon which the country was exceedingly anxious there should be a distinct and authoritative expression of opinion, raising as it did a perfectly legitimate question upon which the electors were anxious to have the most authentic information. As regarded the views and opinions of their constituents, Government, having proclaimed that at the time of the issue of the second Circular they were not fully acquainted with the law of the subject, were bound in common sense to accept this Resolution.

Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment, To insert, after the word "desirable," the words "provided that the Circular of the 5th day of December 1875 and the East Indies Station Order of 1871, on the subject of Fugitive Slaves, shall not continue in force."—(Mr. Fawcett.)


said, that this was a fragmentary part of the question, and it was impossible that the Amendment could be agreed to, as it would not be known in what state the law would be left, except that so far as he could judge the orders of the Indian Government in the Persian Gulf would still be in force. He had that objection without reference to other subjects; and after what had taken place it was asking the House of Commons too much to cancel its recent determination. He therefore trusted that the House would at once agree to the Resolution of the hon. Member for Tamworth (Mr. Hanbury).

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The House divided:—Ayes 245; Noes 290: Majority 45.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to. Resolved, That, in the opinion of this House, in order to maintain most effectually the right of personal liberty, it is desirable to await further information from the Report of a Royal Commission, both as to the instructions from time to time issued to British naval officers, the international obligations of this Country, and the attitude of other States in regard to the treatment of domestic Slaves on board of national ships.